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Movie Review

The Big Kahuna

MPAA Rating: R for language

Reviewed by: Jeff Hurley
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Scene from “The Big Kahuna”
Featuring: Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Peter Facinelli
Director: John Swanbeck
Producer: Kevin Spacey, Elie Samaha, Andrew Stevens
Distributor: Lions Gate Films

Kevin Spacey stars with Danny DeVito and newcomer Peter Facinelli in this fine film—one I think is the best one of the year thus far.

Directed by John Swanbeck and shot in a single room, this is an actors movie. Since the setting is essentially inside a hotel room with brief scenes outside the room, one would expect it to be visually boring, but the exact opposite is true.

Kevin Spacey in “The Big Kahuna”

With limited scenery, Swanbeck makes use of the drama in the actors’ eyes and facial expressions to maximum effect. The three men are salesmen for an industrial lubricant company and have descended upon Wichita, Kansas to land a potentially huge client—referred to as “the big kahuna”.

Spacey (who produced as well, for his new production house) is amazing in this movie. Shot in merely sixteen days following Spacey’s wrap on “American Beauty”, a great film was quickly formed.

DeVito delivers a roll that at first seems rather one note, but by the end it’s clear this could be his single most killer contribution to film as an actor.

Facinelli acts as the young newbie salesman with no experience and gives the world weary Spacey and DeVito characters a contrast that serves the dramatic tension well.

It’s about the bond between men and the subtle force aging has on someone. “Pretty soon you have people throwing you a surprise party and handing you a cake with 50 candles on it”, DeVito intones to Facinelli before giving him some of the best advice he’ll ever get in his life.

The interaction between the two secular salesmen (Spacey and DeVito) and the obviously dedicated Christian (Facinelli) is brilliantly written in an intelligent manner than offers up both sides from the point of view of a sales pitch in a motel.

Easily one of the best movies of 2000, it’s clear Spacey and DeVito are two of our best actors working today. Not one to miss!


Viewer Comments
This is not a movie to see if you are very weak in your faith. It has been said that Christianity is the only faith that Hollywood actually goes out of its way to attack, and here is another attempt to undermine the foundations of our faith. Whenever you get a non-Christian to play a Christian, the representation has a tendency to get distorted, and this movie plays into stereotypical distortions of the meek (softspoken, weak) Christian who is sincere, but naive and socially stunted in his attempt to “push” his faith on other people. The character’s “weakness” is portrayed by him shedding some tears as Danny DeVito gives him a dressing down in his anti-Christian speech at the end. Outside of the heavy amount of profanity used by Kevin Spacey, he also make several overt attacks on scripture (“it’s just words”) and well as a subtle degradation of the diety of Jesus. There are a few redeeming aspects to this movie in that the acting is excellent, and it challenges Christians to think about when it is the appropriate time to speak about Christ, and when we shouldn’t, but overall I found this move very disturbing. My Ratings: [1/4]
—Steve, age 48
On one hand, “The Big Kahuna” is positive in the sense that it raises religious questions. On the other hand, it is negative in the sense that it has an underlying anti-Christian bias. DeVito’s speech near the end of the movie criticized Bob’s evangelism as dishonest, as a mere attempt to “sell Jesus” without any concern whatsoever for the CEO as a person. In essence, DeVito places sharing Jesus in the same category as selling lubricants. Since DeVito is presented throughout the movie as a person with “character written all over his face,” one can assume that his speech near the end represents the views of the people who made the movie. Another problem is that the movie in a sense portrays Bob as an inexperienced, naieve novice in the business world and in life. After all, DeVito essentially says that Bob is not mature enough to have regrets. First of all, evangelism is not a mere attempt to “sell Jesus” without regard to people’s individuality. We tell people about Jesus because we are concerned about them, and the stakes are too high for them if we do not present the way of salvation. Evangelism is not the same as selling lubricants because the evangelist does not really gain much in telling people about Jesus. The main beneficiary is the person who hears the Gospel. Secondly, Christians are not people too immature to have regrets. Christianity is about people regretting their past. That is what repentance is. One only needs to consider the lives of Paul, Augustine, Luther, and a host of others to see that most Christians are not immature. Considering the fact that Christians are not too often portrayed in movies, I am saddened that when one finally is portrayed, he is portrayed in a negative manner. I guess we can’t expect too much from the entertainment industry. My Ratings: [3½/4]
—James, age 23
Though “The Big Kahuna” seems to attack Christianity at the first glance, you realize after viewing it that it actually made an excellent point about witnessing to the secular mind… a message that shouldn’t be ignored by Christian viewers. The Christian character is portrayed accurately and sensitevely with no great offense towards Christians, while the rest of the film is hilighted by Kevin Spacey’s dry (but occasionally raunchy) hilarious humour and Danny DeVito’s philosphies—altogether adding up to a film that goes deeper than most and reminds Christians that actions are of more value than words. My Ratings: [3/4½]
—Mark N., age 15
A superb look at how a person of faith can/should relate to a “secular” culture. The movie raises the question and advocates for both sides, without taking a strong position. It would be an excellent movie to watch with a group of Christians in order to generate conversation about what is appropriate and inappropriate in terms of “evangelism”. Also a good movie to watch with people who are not Christians, to enter into a dialogue about when and where faith-issues are appropriate to raise in our culture. Great acting—powerful! Kevin Spacey is superb! The language is somewhat rough at times, but other than that, it’s an easy watch. My Ratings: [3½/4½]
—Sam Chaise, age 37
“The Big Kahuna” is an intruiging look at what motivates people to do things. Wonderful acting all around. Kevin Spacey just gets better and better. The best I’ve seen Danny Devitto and Peter Facinelli was particularly good. “The Big Kahuna” refers to 2 things. 1. The biggest client for the three salesmen; and 2. GOD. God is the Big Kahuna. The client motivates Spacey and Devitto, while God is the motivation of Facinelli’s character, Bob. He can’t stop talking about Jesus, and sharing the gospel with people, including the major client. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll stop right there, but this is the best movie I’ve seen thus far, in the year 2000. There is no sex or nudity and hardly any language in the film. Therefore, I highly recommend it to everybody. My Ratings: [3½/5]
—Jason Eaken, age 16
Movie Critics
…[Bob’s] faith impacts his entire life and his portrayal is one of the more realistic of a Christian on the big screen in recent memory…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…a read-between-the-lines movie about trust, options, values and priorities, and it’s challenging. DeVito really shines here and his performance alone is worth a full-price ticket…
—Laurie Notaro, The Arizona Republic
…I have never seen the Christian faith so eloquently defended, yet so interestingly attacked. …singles out the frustrating aspects of defending a person’s religion while working with peers who don’t have the same values…
—Holly McClure, Crosswalk
…includes at least 10 uses of the “f” word, while other profanities and colorful phrases are also uttered. Some sexually related comments…
—ScreenIt!