Film: Raising Arizona

Just your typical American family.

Ed: I'm not gonna live this way, Hi! It just ain't family life!
H.I.: Well... it ain't "Ozzie and Harriet."

The Coen Brothers' follow-up to Blood Simple, Raising Arizona begins with harmless criminal Herbert I. "H.I." McDunnough (Nicolas Cage), and police officer Edwina "Ed" (Holly Hunter), meet and fall in love during a series of mug shots. They get married, settle down, and decide they want kids. There's one problem: Ed's infertile. They try adopting, but H.I.'s criminal past prevents this. Then, when all seems hopeless, an opportunity presents itself: Furniture magnate and local celebrity Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson)'s wife gives birth to quintuplets. An off-handed remark about "having more than they can handle" gives H.I. and Ed the idea to kidnap one of the babies, and raise it as their own. So, H.I. sneaks in, and takes Nathan Jr. (we think), and that's when all hell breaks loose. First, H.I's prison buddies Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) break out, and hole up at their place. Then a demonic bounty hunter (Randall "Tex" Cobb) seems to spring from H.I.'s nightmares to pursue him. And then he punches out his boss.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys
  • Apologetic Attacker: HI apologizes twice while fighting Smalls. The first time seems to be out of pure terror and the second time is after pulling the pin out of Small's grenade, killing him.
  • Asshole Victim: Subverted. We initially think Nathan Arizona is this, and his early dialogue suggests a potential Big Bad. When HI and Ed return his son he realises they took him. He refuses to call the cops, genuinely thanks them, and offers them uplifting advice on starting a family of their own.
  • Babies Ever After: In H.I's final dream, he and Ed finally have kids (and grandkids) of their own.
  • Babies Make Everything Better
  • Bad Ass: Nathan Arizona proves himself to be quite formidible when confronted by Leonard Smals. He's completely unimpressed by Small's threats and attempts at intimidation. When Smalls shoots his hand out to catch a fly three inches from Arizona's face, he doesn't even blink.
  • Badass Biker: Leonard Smalls, to a supernatural degree.
  • Beard of Evil: Leonard Smalls.
  • Black Comedy
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: H.I's boss, Glen, is always telling Polack jokes that no one thinks are funny. He also bungles one and has to start over again. HI notes that it finally gets him in trouble when he tries to crack a Polack joke to a Polish highway patrolman.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Okay then," the catchphrase of Arizona yokels.
    • HI's boss always says, "Say, that reminds me..."
    • Ed's "Turn to the right!"
    • Ed's off-screen co-worker: "Don't forget the _______, Ed!"
  • Chase Scene: Cops and trigger-happy civilians wildly pursue H.I. and Ed after a bungled robbery.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land: Rural Arizona is depicted as such.
  • Code Name:
    Gale: I told you not to use our names. Can't you try to keep from forgetting that?
    Evelle: Not even our code names?
    Gale: Oh yeah, right.
    Evelle: Y'all hear that? We're using code names!
  • Comedic Sociopathy
  • Comically Missing the Point: "Son, you've got a panty on your head!"
  • Did You Just Blow Up Cthulhu?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kicking off the epic Chase Scene, the cops are quick to open fire on H.I., even though all he did was steal Huggies (he left the cash on the counter).
  • Distant Finale: H.I.'s dream
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: "You wanna find an outlaw, you call an outlaw; you wanna find a Dunkin' Donuts, call a cop."
  • Dream Sequence: H.I. has nightmares about the Biker, and the epilogue of the film is more pleasant dream.
  • Drives Like Crazy: When H.I. is running from the cops, Ed's police training kicks in, and she immediately turns into Bullitt.
  • Einstein Hair: H.I., although it's obvious he's no scientist.
  • Eldritch Abomination: H.I. believes this is what the Biker is. The fact that he roars and bleeds fire when shot seems to hint that Hi may be right.
  • Embarrassing First Name:
    • H.I. reluctantly signs his "Dear John" Letter Herbert.
    • Nathan Arizona is apparently embarrassed by his last name— he was born "Nathan Huffheinz", but claims that he changed his name because nobody would buy furniture from a store called "Unpainted Huffheinz".
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Averted; Leonard Smalls' tattoo reads "Mama Didn't Love Me."
  • Freudian Excuse: The Biker's tattoo reads "Momma didn't love me".
  • Gender-Blender Name:
    • Gale and Evelle, the two male cons, though "Gail" is the feminine spelling of the former.
    • Ed. H.I. even claims they named the male baby Ed.
  • Hammerspace: A subtle but cool version of this: As the biker walks through Unpainted Arizona, a cigar appears in one hand, out of nowhere, and a match in his other, which he strikes on a wall, to light the cigar.
  • Hand Cannon: The clerk at the store uses one.
  • Harmful to Minors: Leonard Smalls threatens to sell Nathan Jr. on the black market if he doesn't get his ransom.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Telling Polack jokes to a cop named "Kowalski"? Bad idea. Also, Leonard Smalls is blown up by his own grenades.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Ed repeatedly admonishes Hi not to swear in front of the baby, but upon noticing that he's holding up a convenience store repeatedly exclaims, "That son of a bitch!"
  • Ice-Cream Koan: "Well, there's what's right, and there's what's right, and never the twain shall meet."
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The cops and the grocery store owner graduated with honors.
  • Implacable Man: Leonard Smalls is portrayed as such, a seemingly undefeatable foe who draws closer and closer to the main couple.
  • Irony: Nathan Arizona keeps assuring people that what he said is true "or my name ain't Nathan Arizona!" Well, turns out, it's not his real name.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nathan Arizona, Sr. turns out to be a decent guy in the end.
  • Kick the Dog: The Biker's Establishing Character Momenthe shoots a lizard with a shotgun and tosses a grenade at a bunny rabbit. While speeding on his bike.
  • Lock and Load Montage: Parodied. H.I. is going back and forth speechifying, putting another small handgun in his pants every time he reappears on screen. Finally, he appears with a shotgun, saying "So let's go, honey! (cocks gun) Let's go get Nathan Jr!"
  • Lyrical Dissonance: One of the main themes of the film is based on the tune of "Down in the Willow Garden" aka "Rose Connelly," a song about a man awaiting execution for murdering a young woman. The lyrics are heard only in one scene, where Ed sings it as a lullaby.
  • Magical Realism: Definitely. The plot is centered around a fairly mundane love story/kidnapping scheme, but it also involves a bounty hunter who may or may not be a demon from Hell.note  And then there's Hi's tendency to have prophetic and/or clairvoyant dreams, which he doesn't seem to consider unusual.
  • Maintain the Lie: H.I. and Ed after they "adopt" Nathan Jr.
  • Mama Bear: Ed is ready to throw down with Leonard Smalls over Nathan, despite being unarmed.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking:
    "I want a baby, H.I.! They got more than they can handle."
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The biker gives this to H.I. at the end.
  • Not So Different: H.I. and the Biker have the same Mr. Horsepower tattoo, fueling the possibility that he really is Hi's personal demon.
  • Oh Crap!: The biker's expression when he realizes H.I. is holding the pin from one of his grenades.
    • Gale and Evelle have this reaction after finding out they left Junior behind following their botched bank robbery attempt.
  • One Phone Call: An offscreen voice reminds Ed to give H.I. one.
  • Pineapple Surprise: how Hi defeats Leonard Smalls
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Done by Leonard Smalls.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Ed, played by 5'2" Holly Hunter, is an officer of the law, twice decorated. Her face off against the biker should give some idea of how she achieved that. Also, when she slaps H.I. for robbing the convenience store, he looks like he's been punched by someone bigger than him.
  • Running Gag:
    • HI repeatedly identifies the kidnapped baby as, "Nathan Jr... I think." Later, Nathan Arizona says the same thing.
    • Hi and Ed still calling their kidnapped baby Nathan, Jr. When asked by others what the baby's name is, they each give the other partner's name, adding a "Junior" to the end of it. And then after Gale and Evelle take the baby away, they start calling him Gale Jr.
    • Everyone in Arizona says "Okay, then."
    • Glen's obsession with Polack jokes.
    • HI's co-worker always telling the same story about finding a human head on the highway.
    • Whenever Nathan Jr changes hands, the Dr Spock baby guide goes with him.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Smalls, to the point he might not even be human.
  • Scary Black Man: Sometimes he gets the menstrual cramps real hard.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "P.O.E." and "O.P.E." scrawled on a bathroom door is a Shout Out to Dr. Strangelove.
    • The Biker's real name is "Leonard Smalls." His friends call him "Lenny"... but he ain't got no friends.
    • The tracking shot, supposedly the POV of Leonard Smalls' motorcycle speeding right up into the Arizona family window, is an homage to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead films. The Coen brothers were early collaborators with Raimi.
  • A Simple Plan: Stealing one of the Arizona quints, since the parents "have more than they can handle."
  • Sophisticated as Hell: H.I., and everyone in the film, to some degree. An early example of the Coens' fondness for stylization, but Roger Ebert found it distracting enough to pan the movie over it.
    Evelle: No ma'am, we didn't escape, we released ourselves from prison on our own recognizance.
    Gale: We felt we'd reached the limits of what the institution had to offer us.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Everything in the film's climax...including the biker.
  • Stupid Crooks: H.I. is a terrible crook, getting caught every time he tries to stick up a quickie mart. Evelle and Gale are just as bad, thoroughly bungling their bank robbery and constantly "leaving a man behind."
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: The Arizona Quints: Harry, Barry, Larry, Garry, and Nathan Junior.
  • Tattooed Crook: H.I. and Leonard Smalls both sport tattoos, including the same Mr. Horsepower tattoo.
  • Tears of Joy: Ed, after H.I. gets Nathan Jr.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: A Muzak version of the theme plays in a supermarket. Ed also sings a "lullaby" to the tune.
  • Tomboyish Name: Ed, short for Edwina.
  • Too Many Babies: the Arizona quints.
  • Word Salad Title: It's not clear until you see the film that "Arizona" is a surname, so "Raising Arizona" means raising a child with the name of Arizona.
  • You Can See That, Right?: H.I. to Ed when Smalls appears.
  • You Shall Not Pass: H.I. attempts this, leading to a beatdown.