Follow TV Tropes


Film / Nothing but Trouble

Go To
Welcome to Valkenvania, where your first offense will likely be your last...

"All They Wanted Was A Little Getaway. All They Got Was... Nothing But Trouble."
— Tagline

A 1991 comedy film written (from a story by his brother Peter) and directed by Dan Aykroyd - his only turn in the director's chair to date. It stars Chevy Chase, Aykroyd, John Candy (in a dual role), and Demi Moore in one of her first post-Brat Pack films.

Chase plays Christopher Thorne, an investment banker with his own newsletter. At a party, he meets financial lawyer Diane Lightson (Moore) who he offers to drive to Atlantic City for an important meeting. Tagging along are two of Christopher's wealthiest clients, eccentric Brazillian siblings Fausto & Renalda. During their trip through the country, they are menaced by the corrupt and tyrannical Justice Alvin Valkenheiser and his family.


This film contains the examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Eldona, an overweight woman played by John Candy in drag, wants to marry Christopher, whether he wants to or not (and her Corrupt Hick grandfather JP is more than happy to help her arrange this).
  • All Crimes Are Equal: J.P. Valkenheiser runs a courtroom still operating under feudal law in modern-day American coal country. This gives him the right to execute people for anything varying from attempted murder of one of his officers to running a stop sign.
  • Amusement Park of Doom: "Mister Bonestripper" is a rollercoaster ride through the scrapyard that ends with the passengers being thrown into a machine that strips them to the bone.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: The JP forces Christopher to marry his granddaughter Eldona, the alternative being execution for running a stop sign (and being a banker!). He agrees to go through the ceremony since he figures it will give him an opportunity to escape, but after tying the knot he immediately gets caught.
  • Advertisement:
  • Anticipatory Breath Spray: Thorne initially orders his driver to take Diane to Atlantic City before he sees her emerge out of the elevator looking all fine. He tells the driver to give him the keys and a dose of his breath spray.
  • Artificial Limbs: The JP has a wooden leg, the result of World War I.
  • Asshole Victims:
    • The second batch of perps Dennis hauls in are a bunch of drug-addled yuppies who fully expect to be able to buy their way out of trouble. Not a chance in hell.
    • Chris and Diane also find tons of newspaper clippings and IDs in the attic belonging to the Judge's previous victims, most of whom are various disreputable people such as mafioso, ex-Nazis, and biker gangs. And Hare Krishnas.
  • Bald of Evil: The insane judge is completely bald underneath his wig.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The state police are actually aware of J.P. Valkenheiser's activities, but conspire with him to kill criminals who wriggled their way through the ordinary American justice system.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The "Bonestripper" lives up to its name; the bones that fly out are completely clean, and not a drop of blood is ever seen the entire movie.
  • Bribe Backfire: Thorne (and later on a bunch of asshole yuppies) try to bribe their way off being arrested in Valkenvania... the problem is that the J.P. is not only a Hanging Judge, but also a man who hates (and that is murderously loathes) rich people ("bankers!"). The only time a bribe works, it's because the deputy was already deciding to do a "Screw This, I'm Outta Here!" and the implied job offer sounded interesting.
  • The Capital of Brazil Is Buenos Aires: Both Fausto and Renalda, supposedly Brazilian characters, speak Spanish as their first language. Furthermore, they are repeatedly mentioned to be Brazilian but a Freeze-Frame Bonus shows that their passports are Argentinean.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: After escaping from Judge Valkenheiser's grasp, Chris and Diane go back with an entire army of state troopers in tow to arrest the Hanging Judge. It becomes obvious that they're ALL in league with Valkenheiser when they turn their weapons on the pair.
  • Cool Old Guy: Judge Valkenheiser, crazed though he may be, has enough intelligence to automate his house with awesome and deadly gadgets plus plays a mean organ as shown when Digital Underground performs for the court.
  • Corrupt Hick: Judge Alvin Valkenheiser — and how! Valkenvania is basically his personal fiefdom (his mansion is even built like a castle, complete with moat; and his official title, "Shire Reeve", is the feudal version of a magistrate). Plus his whole operation consists of having his deputized family members arrest criminals (both real and imagined) who journey through the town before executing them so they can loot their cars and other belongings. Though while corrupt, the JP is not a "hick" in the traditional sense of the term, as illustrated by the fact that he has an Engineering Degree, and by the fact that he's likely the one who heavily modified and automated his courthouse/mansion.
  • Crosscast Role: John Candy plays both Dennis Valkenheiser and his sister Eldona Valkenheiser.
  • Defector from Decadence: Chief Dennis Valkenheiser is shown to object somewhat to his J.P. grandfather's severe punishments of even non-criminals. He eventually decides to resign and take a job offer from the rich Brazilian brother and sister by helping them escape.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: When one of the drug dealers threatens Dennis with a gun, he fakes distress before producing a Walther MPL.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: God help you, God really, really help you if you're a banker (or work on some business that people could describe (even if highly erroneously) as "banker") and the JP gets you. No amount of fame, fortune or begging will save you from being sentenced harshly, or maybe even killed and disappeared without a trace, just for being a "banker".
  • The End... Or Is It?: Valkenvania is destroyed in a massive gas explosion, and the heroes make it back home when a news report reveals that the hick Hanging Judge is still alive and is going to pay his "grandson-in-law" a visit.
  • Evil Old Folks: The J.P. is friggin' ancient, being a 106-year old Hanging Judge. He's almost completely immobile and depends on his grandchildren for muscle.
  • Feet-First Introduction: The deputy sheriff is introduced shoes first as he gets out of his police cruiser.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Or Plot Hole, take your pick: Fausto and Renalda are mentioned several times to be Brazilian but Renalda's passport is shown in an early scene and it says it's from Argentina.
  • Gratuitous Rap: Digital Underground's appearance in the middle of the movie.
  • The Grotesque: Bobo and Lil' Debbul, two extremely fat men wearing diapers.
  • Hanging Judge: JP Alvin Valkenheiser. He's a Corrupt Hick who rules his courtroom like a tyrant, and executes anyone he hates (especially stinkin' bankers!) by sentencing them to a ride on the "Bonestripper".
  • Historical In-Joke/Stock Unsolved Mysteries: While searching for a way out of the Valkenvania house, Diane and Chris find a Room Full of Crazy (with license cards of every "banker" that the JP has killed)... and one of the identifications happens to be that of Jimmy Hoffa.
  • Impact Silhouette: The very last gag.
  • Kangaroo Court: Dan Aykroyd's crazy judge presides over this kind of court. One of the characters recognizes that his court is operating by pre-Magna Carta English law, which really did give judges this kind of power. And God help you if you're a banker... However, when a group of hip hop artists appear before him, he quickly waves all charges, stating that they're performing a service for the common good.
  • Mickey Mousing: The bones that come out of Mr. Bonestripper make pinball-sounds when they hit the target sign nearby.
  • Morally Bankrupt Banker: The JP fully believes that anyone involved in finance is morally bankrupt, ever since his grandfather made a bad deal with a genuinely corrupt one while he was off fighting in World War 1. And since he's a Hanging Judge, that means death to any "banker" he can get his hands on.
  • The Noseless: Judge Valkenheiser takes off his fake nose in his private quarters. Chris, who is secretly observing this from a wall cavity, has to restain himself from gagging.
  • People Fall Off Chairs: When Chris learns that Judge Valkenheiser has survived the giant earthquake through a news report at the end, he literally falls off his couch.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Surprisingly averted. It seems to be the one thing the JP has in terms of being just. In spite of being a Corrupt Hick par excellence, when he judges a group of hip hop artists, he actually lets them be on their way after asking them for a favor. Though the heroes also discover a newspaper clipping indicating that he executed a group of Hare Krishnas.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: A painting of a fat lady in Chris and Diane's guest room at the mansion has cut-out eyes that are used by Eldona to spy on them.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: The motto of the Valkenvania PD is apparently "Nihil Tolerantur" (zero tolerance). Considering the JP's methods, it might be understating the case.
  • Right Behind Me: Says Humpty-Hump about Purdah — "She is one ugly, cross-burning, redneck, peckerwood police bitch, man." Subverted in that Humpty doesn't care that Purdah heard what he said (though Purdah does harshly tell Humpty Hump and the other Digital Underground members to move it).
  • Room Full of Crazy: Late in the film, as Chris and Diane are exploring the J.P.’s home, they stumble on a trophy room virtually wallpapered with the driver’s licenses of, and news clippings related to, the other poor souls who’ve been stopped in Valkenvania, showing how long the Valkenheiser clan has been at this.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here! / Impact Silhouette: Chris' reaction to the JP's plan to visit his "grandson-in-law" right at the ending.
  • Stripped to the Bone: Mister Bonestripper.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Judge Valkenheiser seems to be just a soft-spoken, senile old judge but when the foursome before him don't take him seriously and see the proceedings as a mere formality, he suddenly jumps out of his chair and raises his voice to scare them.
  • Sword Cane: The JP duels with Chris, who wields a femur.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Valkenvania
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • Once while riding his motorcycle through the country, Dan Aykroyd was pulled over by a local cop, who hauled him into the Justice of the Peace's courthouse in the middle of the night for sentencing. Unlike Valkenheiser, the J.P. he faced was a fairly reasonable person — she charged him fifty dollars for speeding, then had a friendly talk with him over a pot of tea.
    • Also, the mostly-abandoned New Jersey town with coal fires burning beneath it for a century - though Centralia, Pennsylvania, has only been burning for fifty years as of 2012.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: J.P Valkenheiser. After making their escape, the heroes inform the state troopers about the Corrupt Hick Hanging Judge ruling Valkenvania like a dictator and executing anyone he pleases, but when they go back there it turns out that they all love the JP and his methods. They're about to dispose of the heroes instead for having seen too much when an earthquake destroys the town.
  • The Voiceless: Eldona. At first Christopher thinks she's just shy, but according to the JP she's mute.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Chris and Diane are menaced by a wall moving in to crush them while they're sneaking around the Valkenheiser estate.
  • What a Piece of Junk: At the beginning of the film, Christopher tries to outrun Dennis' patrol car, only to find out the hard way that the car's engine has been modified in such a way to be able to catch up with Thorne's top-of-the-line BMW. At the end of the film, Christopher and Diane escape an exploding Valkenvania using the nearly-totally-scrapped BMW, which still runs pretty well (Diane tried to turn it on earlier, but turned out that there was an a fuel cut-off switch that's part of the car's alarm system).
  • Wrench Wench: Again, Eldona.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: