Ed: I'm not gonna live this way, Hi! It just ain't family life!
H.I.: Well... it ain't "Ozzie and Harriet."
H.I. (Nicolas Cage), harmless criminal, and Ed (Holly Hunter), a cop, 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. Directed by The Coen Brothers.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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 According to HI, "...he was the fury that would be as soon as Florence Arizona found her little Nathan gone." And then there's Hi's tendency to have prophetic and/or clairvoyant dreams, which he doesn't seem to consider unusual.
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.
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.
"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: Pretty much 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."