35 – The Big Kahuna

This three-character movie, based on the play by Roger Rueff, deals with salesmen who are somewhat impatiently waiting for a very important business client – a.k.a. The Big Kahuna – on whom the fortunes of their company rests. Should they land the contract with this mysterious bigwig, their company will prosper. If they don’t land the contract, of course, then they’re all sunk.

Larry (Kevin Spacey) and Phil (Danny DeVito) are the salesmen, and Bob (Peter Facinelli) is the marketing guy. Bob’s a rookie, and Larry and Phil try to prep him for handling himself with potential customers. They’ve rented the hospitality suite in the hotel to entertain their clients and are planning on having a small party, hoping that the Big Kahuna will show up. No, it’s not Waiting for Godot, but it’s along those lines.

This is basically a character study. There’s a lot of dialog – virtually the entire movie takes place in the suite, with only a few very minor scenes outside it – and each word is absolutely dripping with meaning. There aren’t any throwaway lines in this movie, folks. Most movies contain generic lines that would fit in any similar movie. Not this one. If you’re a fan of well-written movies, this is a prime example of how one should be constructed.

But with such an emphasis on the dialog, there’s naturally little action. This is always a problem with movies based on plays. They come off restrained, stagey, and claustrophobic. But the lack of action actually gives the viewer the opportunity to watch two decidedly different acting styles. Spacey is bombastic, punctuating each syllable with a sneer or a rant. DeVito, on the other hand, is more reserved and appears wizened as a result. Each actor turns in a stunning performance, with Spacey basically reprising the role he played in Glengarry Glen Ross. The only one who seems out of place is Facinelli, who is ineffective as Bob the marketing guy.

The Big Kahuna is compelling, as long as you don’t mind talky comedy-dramas.

The Big Kahuna: 6

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