The 1987 crime comedy Raising Arizona is streaming on Hulu. The movie is directed by Joel Coen from a script he co-wrote with Ethan Coen. It features Nicolas Cage as ex-convict H.I. McDunnough alongside Holly Hunter as his wife and former police officer Edwina “Ed” McDunnough. Trey Wilson, William Forsythe, John Goodman, Frances McDormand, Sam McMurray, and Randall Cobb also star.
Raising Arizona opens with H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage), a small-time crook with a history of robbing convenience stores getting his mugshot taken. There he meets police officer Edwina “Ed” (Holly Hunter). They quickly fall in love despite H.I.’s criminal record. They marry, and Ed reveals her deep desire to have a family. However, they discover that Ed is infertile due to her work with firearms.
H.I. (Nicolas Cage) and Ed must navigate the chaos caused by their criminal associates and the relentless pursuit of the baby by the private investigator and Leonard Smalls.
Determined to become parents, H.I. (Nicolas Cage) and Ed decide to steal one of the Arizona Quintuplets, five babies born to a wealthy local family. Their motivations are genuinely well-intentioned, as they believe they can provide a loving home for one of the babies. They refer to the child they plan to take as “the littlest angel.”
Nicolas Cage’s H.I. successfully kidnaps one of the quintuplets, who they believe is Nathan Jr. Meanwhile, the Arizona family, led by Nathan Sr., is distraught over the kidnapping and hires a private investigator. Chaos ensues when H.I.’s criminal associates, Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe), arrive at H.I. and Ed’s home.
Raising Arizona was not a major box office success upon its initial release but gained a cult following over the years due to its quirky characters, slapstick humor, and unexpected twists.
They are on the run after escaping from prison and decide to stay with H.I. (Nicolas Cage) and Ed. When the private investigator eventually tracks down H.I., Ed, and Nathan Jr., Leonard Smalls (Randall Cobb), a fearsome bounty hunter with a bizarre demeanor, also enters the picture. Smalls is hired by Nathan Sr. to recover the baby.
As the film progresses, the characters find themselves in increasingly absurd and dangerous situations. H.I. (Nicolas Cage) and Ed must navigate the chaos caused by their criminal associates and the relentless pursuit of the baby by the private investigator and Leonard Smalls. Along with themes of family, the film also explores the idea that even those with checkered pasts can aspire to a more responsible life.
Raising Arizona was not a major box office success upon its initial release but gained a cult following over the years due to its quirky characters, slapstick humor, and unexpected twists. The Nicolas Cage-led film earned approximately $22 million at the worldwide box office, making it a modest success compared to the Coen brothers’ later works.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics who praised Nicolas Cage’s performance as H.I. and Holly Hunter’s portrayal of Ed. The actors were lauded for their chemistry and comedic timing. Raising Arizona holds a significant place in Cage’s career, as he was relatively unknown at the time of its release.
While he had appeared in a few films before this, including Valley Girl in 1983 and Peggy Sue Got Married in 1986, Raising Arizona marked one of his first leading roles in a major motion picture. It allowed him to showcase his versatility as an actor. Nicolas Cage convincingly portrayed H.I. as a likable, well-intentioned, but hapless character, which was a departure from his previous roles.
Moreover, working with Joel and Ethan Coen, who were emerging as distinctive filmmakers with a unique storytelling style, was a significant career move for Nicolas Cage. The Coen brothers’ unconventional storytelling approach and sharp dialogue allowed Cage to showcase his acting chops in a film that emphasized character-driven comedy.
Raising Arizona holds a significant place in Cage’s career, as he was relatively unknown at the time of its release.
Raising Arizona was Joel and Ethan Coen’s second feature film, following their debut with Blood Simple in 1984. After working with Nicolas Cage on the 1987 movie, the Coen Brothers directed a series of critically acclaimed films that further solidified their reputation as innovative storytellers. In 1990, they delivered Miller’s Crossing, a stylish neo-noir crime drama praised for its intricate plot.
The Coen brothers followed this with Barton Fink in 1991, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Their diverse filmography includes 1996’s Fargo, 1998’s The Big Lebowski, and 2000’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? and 2007’s No Country for Old Men, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.