FOOTAGE FETISHES: “BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA”

“Shut up, Mr. Burton. You were not put on this earth to ‘get it.’”

It’s a common strategy to tell someone they don’t “get it” if they have the temerity not to find something as hilariously amusing or incredibly deep as you do. I myself have been told as much by aficionados of “Sports Night,” for example. My attitude about such things remains: “You say ‘tomato,’ I say ‘annoying Aaron Sorkin wankfest that pads every script out by having characters repeat the same lines back to each other ad nauseum.’” But hey, one man’s meat, and all that.

And truthfully, I could use the same argument about “Big Trouble in Little China.” Much as I hate to admit it, the “get it” angle is really the only one that fits. Not to say something’s wrong with you if you don’t find the film funny, just that it takes a certain sense of humor to fully appreciate exchanges like, “It is black blood of the earth.” “You mean oil?” “I mean black blood of the earth!” Truth is, if you didn’t laugh at that in 1986, you’re not going to laugh at it now. The humor lobes in our brain are more or less fully developed by the time we get into junior high, meaning you either grew up snorting milk out your nose at the idea of a coyote blowing himself up in a rocket sled or you didn’t. It’s not a matter of sophistication; it’s a question of rapport, of “getting it.”

I suspect many of those reviewing “Big Trouble in Little China” during its initial run were unprepared for a smirking buffoon as a lead character and over-the-top martial arts fight scenes. The frenetic wire fu featured in “Trouble” is commonplace now, even if mainstream leading men have since become (no, really) shallower and less interesting. Newcomers to “Big Trouble in Little China” even draw comparisons between Jack Burton and Bruce Campbell’s Ash from the “Evil Dead” films. I can see the similarities…except Burton is the smarter of the two…and Ash could easily kick the crap out of Burton, but that’s just the sort of fanboy comparison that gives the “norms” itchy extremities.

Remake My Day

20th Century Fox shouldn’t do a remake of “Big Trouble in Little China,” they should do a goddamn sequel. Kurt Russell showed he still had the chops to play Snake Plissken, so there’s really no reason why he couldn’t return as Burton. However, you simply can’t bring in Jackie Chan (as some rumor sites have opined) or Jet Li or some other martial arts star to act alongside him. Dennis Dun needs to come back as Wang Chi. Happily married to Miao Yin, he probably has a few kids and needs to be roused from his sedate lifestyle to bail Jack out of yet another globe-threatening crisis. Victor Wong won’t return, by reason of being deceased, but he was going on “a long vacation” at the end of “Trouble” anyway, so his absence can be easily explained. James Hong would be difficult to include, but perhaps a Lo Pan cameo would be in order.

Your biggest challenge is getting Kim Cattrall back, and while I believe she’d have no technical problem with assuming the role of Gracie Law again, she won’t do it. “Sex and the City” has finally given the former “Porky’s” and “Baby Geniuses” actress the credibility she’s always craved. Besides, word is that her experience with the rest of the cast on the “Trouble” set wasn’t the most amicable. Ah, who wants her back anyway? Jack didn’t even kiss her goodbye. If you need a romantic interest that has serviceable comic skills and is of comparable, uh, vintage to Kurt Russell, I’d suggest Jamie Lee Curtis.

Or another Penthouse Pet. I’m nothing if not open-minded.

Discuss Pete Vonder Haar’s “Footage Fetishes” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on September 2, 2003 in Features by

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