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Film / Larger than Life

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Larger than Life is a 1996 road comedy film directed by Howard Franklin.

Motivational speaker Jack Corcoran (Bill Murray) learns that his father, who he never knew, was a clown who died recently in Baltimore and left him an inheritance. That inheritance turns out to be an Asian elephant named Vera. Jack is told that he is now legally responsible for Vera, and also liable for the property damage she's caused. Jack needs to find a way to transport Vera all the way across the United States to California, where there are two people willing to take her: the researcher Mo (Janeane Garofalo), who wants to take Vera to Sri Lanka for a breeding project, and the animal trainer Terry (Linda Fiorentino), who works for a circus.

Larger than Life contains examples of:

  • Beware of Vicious Dog: In the junkyard, a snarling rottweiler runs toward Jack. Vera scares it off by trumpeting.
  • Deceptive Legacy: Jack was always told that his father died heroically to save a child from drowning before he was born.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jack's parents split up when he was a baby because his father was too irresponsible to raise a child.
  • Down in the Dumps: During Jack's first night as an elephant owner, none of the hotels will take him, so he and Vera end up sleeping in the city dump, where he is charged $300 for the privilege of staying there.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Jack rents a truck, which he doesn't know how to drive. While going uphill, the truck slows to fifteen mph until another trucker yells instructions for how to shift gears. Then while going downhill, the truck accelerates out of control.
  • Funny Background Event: One scene shows Jack Corcoran talking to the elephant while Tip Tucker (Matthew McConaughey) is on the phone with his boss and he discovers that Jack betrayed him. Watching Tip's exaggerated poses with the juxtaposition of the heartfelt speech from Jack is but one of the funny moments of this film.
  • Gilligan Cut: Jack and Vera are traveling through the hot, dry New Mexico desert when it starts raining. Jack says, "Vera, it's rain! My whining days are over!" Cut to Jack whining about his wet clothes.
  • Mock Surprise Reaction: Jack Corcoran is trying to get a train ticket while bringing his father's pet elephant Vera cross-country. When the ticket master asks Jack if the elephant wants a ticket too, Jack questions about this, turns to see Vera, and screams in mock surprise.
  • No Animals Allowed: Jack tells the attorney, "I've got an apartment with a no pet clause." The attorney replies, "I'll slap a lien on that."
  • Road Trip Plot: The film has the protagonist crossing the country with an elephant using various modes of transportation, including trucks, a train, and at one point riding on the elephant's back.
  • Spiteful Spit: Jack tricks trucker Tip Tucker into thinking his load has been canceled so he'll give him and Vera a lift. When Tip realizes he's been tricked, he spits at Jack, then Vera.
  • Standard Snippet: "The Blue Danube" plays during Jack's speech at the beginning of the movie.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Jack receives a telegram from his agent Walter (Jeremy Piven) that says, "You've only just begun. A kiss for luck, and you're on your way."