The Big Kahuna (1999) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
156 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Spacey Good, DeVito Great
flickershows29 July 2004
Some movies are little more than photographed stage plays. 'The Big Kahuna' is like that. Most of the scenes are set in one hotel room and only 4 people have any lines. It could be said that all they do is talk, philosophize, and soul-search in this film. So if what they talk about is interesting and moves you, then the movie works. With subject matter such as religion, friendship, finding a meaning in life, and even the art of salesmanship, the characters definitely have a lot to say. And they're pretty funny, even if the film is too tragic to be called a comedy. Bottom line is, I'll long remember Danny DeVito's touching, understated performance.

He and Kevin Spacey (Phil and Larry, respectively) play experienced industrial lubricant salesman who've been sent to a convention in Wichita. Accompanying the two longtime friends and colleagues is a young co-worker, Bob (Peter Facinelli). They're hosting a small party in their hospitality suite for the elusive Dick Fuller. This is a client who could conceivably make or break their careers, but might not even show up to talk biz. Fuller represents the title character, although you could also say the kahuna is God. The final third of the picture delves deeply into spiritual belief and the search for the man above. Facinelli is devout, Spacey is not, DeVito rides in the middle lane and tries to keep the peace.

Whether or not they actually make the big deal plays second fiddle to the give-and-take relationship of the 3 very different men. Spacey is as witty and smart as usual, but DeVito is the soul of 'The Big Kahuna'. He's been good before, but he's generally a comic actor. Here, he's the straight man. The writer and director (Roger Rueff and John Swanbeck, who've never made another film) know how to give Spacey his big scenes and they REALLY know how to let DeVito play everything in expressions and tone. The filmmakers aren't breaking new turf, but they let their excellent actors act. Even if this is just another verse in the 'Death Of A Salesman' song, DeVito's got the goods on Willy Loman.
44 out of 48 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Well done, great acting
smakawhat28 November 2000
Would you sell your soul to sell industrial lubricants? Based on a stage play called 'Hospitality suite', The Big Kahuna contains only 3 main actors in this movie who all give powerful performances.

Spacey as the no nonsense take no prisoners step on em when he's down salesman, DeVito as his colleague who's had enough and thinks he's wasted his life going from nameless towns, and boring hotel rooms, and the young up and coming Peter Facinelli as the 6 month newcomer who is like a babe in the woods, but has a strong spiritual side and stronger convictions than anyone else.

Spacey is great as always, and Facinelli is very believable as the devout Baptist. But it is DeVito who steals this movie in what has to be the best role I have ever seen him portray. A funny expose and what it means to be truly successful and happy in career and life. Kahuna scores high!

This movie has just great dialogue, and some incredibly memorable lines most of it coming from Spacey who keeps hitting Facinelli over his head with his sharp brute and dirty yet smart mouth.

A definite must see for 2000.

Rating 8 out of 10.
26 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A refreshingly intelligent film
FlickJunkie-218 October 2000
This refreshingly intelligent film delivers raw intellectual power by retaining the look and feel of the play from which it was adapted. The use of a single set and just three actors throws the emphasis entirely upon the in-depth character studies, the incisive dialogue and the actors' outstanding performances. It draws us into the lives of three seemingly ordinary guys at a convention whose interaction broaches questions that are nothing short of an examination of the meaning of life. The dialogue unabashedly strips the characters naked to show the ironies and hypocrisies inherent in their strategies for establishing meaning in the machinations of mundane lives. The laser sharp exchanges slash relentlessly at the souls of each, leaving none of the characters intact by the end of the film. And with each thrust, they drive another introspective probe deep into the psyche of the viewer.

The presentation reminded me a little of `Glengarry Glen Ross' with its theatrical feel and deep reflective tone, although this film was more confronting and less darkly despondent. Roger Roeff's penetrating script approaches the meaninglessness of life from three unique perspectives. We have Larry (Kevin Spacey) the seemingly superficial cynic who has far greater depth than he lets on and who uses his sardonic persona as a defense mechanism to hide his own fears. Phil (Danny DeVito) is the pragmatic but jaded salesman who is great at putting things in perspective for everyone but himself. Bob is the naïve young Christian zealot whose antidote for the futility of life is a strong dose of Jesus.

The juxtaposition of Larry the cynic and Bob the idealist makes for numerous thought provoking exchanges, especially when we learn that Phil (our mediator and voice of reason) is drowning in his own soul-searching quest for meaning. The story poses more questions than it does answers, and sputters a bit at the end, but overall it accomplishes its purpose of making the viewer ponder profundities easily ignored while in the pursuit of everyday priorities.

The acting was brilliant. Kevin Spacey gave what I thought was the best performance of his career. This was so much more interesting and meaty a character than he played in `American Beauty' that Spacey easily eclipsed even that outstanding performance. Larry was such a dynamic and complex character, that Spacey was able to open up the throttle and show us the full measure of his considerable talents. Likewise, Danny DeVito delivered a personal best in a serious dramatic role. His portrayal of the mediator who was trying to keep the peace while he was disintegrating inside was subtle and powerful. Peter Facinelli was also near perfect with an utterly believable and sincere performance as the pure hearted whelp whose heart was suffused with the Lord.

I rated this film a 9/10, but it requires a certain type of viewer to enjoy it. It is a very intellectual film, which precludes it from having much mass appeal. Action junkies will be bored to tears. However, for those who have a philosophical bent, this film will be highly satisfying.
57 out of 66 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A bang-on, unbelievably good script executed by some of the finest actors around
ToldYaSo21 September 1999
"The Big Kahuna" proved to be one of the finest offerings that I was privy to at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. The expression "saving the best for last" applies strongly to this film. We were fortunate to have a Q&A after the film with Roger Rueff, the screenwriter of this eloquently written piece, John Swanbeck, the director enjoying all that a first timer could hope for from his debut, and the gifted actor Kevin Spacey, who starred in and produced the film.

This marvellous examination of three men of different age groups at a convention in Wichita also features the talents of Danny DeVito who apparently came to the production in the proverbial last minute. This film was shot in a very short sixteen days which comes as a surprise, despite it's one central location, as the dialogue is so strong. The best way to describe it is as almost poetic.

The script was adapted from the play "Hospitality Suite", also written by Rueff, who revealed in the Q&A that the story was based upon his own experiences at a sales convention long ago. But he assured us that his character of the young, impressionable, bible thumping "Bob" was not based on himself. Rueff also noted that with this being his first screenplay, he had worried about the horror stories he heard where scripts are butchered and transformed into things the writer never intended in many Hollywood productions. But in this case, he trusted the director and cast implicitly and was not disappointed in any way.

Kevin Spacey shines in this sneak peak behind the scenes of a sales convention where the future of a company lies squarely on the shoulders of three men in the pursuit of a big client. The president of another company represents the biggest potential account they will ever have. They exchange stories, accounts and personal philosophies and find how different they are from one another based on what they've been through.

The interaction between the three actors is mesmerizing. They take the audience into what feels like a true life account documented verbatim. To say more would spoil the outcome for those who've not yet had a chance to enjoy this film. It is my strong recommendation that all of those who have not, do so at their first available opportunity.
51 out of 59 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
thoughtful drama
Buddy-5121 September 2000
Though essentially little more than a stage bound version of the play, `Hospitality Suite,' the film entitled `The Big Kahuna' earns distinction for its sharply delineated characters and the finely wrought performances of its three main actors. In fact, the stage origins of the film are evident in the fact that the action rarely extends beyond a single set – a hotel suite in Wichita, Kansas in which three salesman are gathered for a convention – and the fact that only four people are even assigned speaking parts (and even the fourth is a mere walk-on bellboy). All the other people we see serve as a kind of silent backdrop before which the three principal players enact their complex personal drama.

Kevin Spacey, in a truly brilliant performance, plays Larry, a middle-aged, sardonic salesman who sees life strictly from the perspective of a hardcore cynic and who, consequently, runs roughshod over his two business associates with his acerbic wit and hardnosed bluntness. In total contrast is Bob (Peter Facinelli), a 20-something neophyte to the selling business, a sincere, well-intentioned, but hopelessly naïve born-again Christian, who has trouble separating his career as a salesman from his felt need to fulfill the Biblical edict to go out among men and spread the Good News. Caught between the two is Phil (Danny DeVito), a 52-year old man who, after years of devoting his life to the cause of selling, has begun to seriously question the validity of his life's work and has, therefore, recently found himself contemplating such weighty matters as suicide, the existence of God and the meaning of love and friendship. Obviously, such cleanly delineated characters could well have slid over into two-dimensional stereotypes, yet the author, Roger Rueff, in adapting his play to the screen, has built into each of the three principal figures a dimension of multifaceted human complexity. Larry, for instance, despite all of his facile cynicism, shows a far deeper side to his character when, in a quiet moment in which Phil pours his heart out to him, he offers his buddy the hand of genuine compassion and friendship. We discover that the often-bitter tone Larry displays to the world is just a façade, a cover-up for the void that lies deep within his own troubled psyche. Similarly, Rueff avoids the common trap of reducing the devout Christian character to the customary level of a mindless buffoon. Although we sense that Bob too uses his Christianity as a way of ordering his life - thereby avoiding the messy ugliness that a more freethinking life often requires - yet, Rueff merely implies that Bob has some growing up to do, not that his belief system must itself be jettisoned. And Phil, caught between these two worldviews, provides, out of his own confused weakness, the voice of reasoned sanity that helps Larry and Bob come to a final understanding and mutual appreciation of each other. He sees Larry plainly for who he is, yet Phil knows that this is the person who means more to him than anyone else in the world. Similarly, though he somewhat admires and respects Bob's sincere devotion to his Christian principles, Phil knows that Bob has a long way to go before he becomes a true `man of character.'

`The Big Kahuna' does not provide big laughs, though the sardonic wit often strikes a deep chord in the audience. The film may also seem claustrophobic to those who demand more movement from their movies. The dialogue, however, is consistently sharp and incisive, even though Phil's final speech borders a bit on the pedantic. (At this point, Phil's function as the author's mouthpiece becomes a bit heavy-handed to say the least). Nevertheless, for those in search of a fine character study, driven by strong performances and insightful observations about human nature, `The Big Kahuna' is definitely worth checking out.
18 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Remarkable acting, excellent character development.
Sailbart2 May 2000
An extremely well done, contained movie. Unlike so much of the standard over the top excesses of much of current Hollywood movies this movie depends on the depth of the characters, particularly Danny De Vito. Rarely have I ever seen an actor change on screen from the inside out like De Vito does. Kevin Spacey gives his normal excellent work, and Peter Facinelli is quite good as an easily recognizable "true believer". But, this movie belongs to Danny De Vito who gives the best performance of his career. Moving exploration of men struggling with meaninglessness.
34 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Powerful performances outweigh stagey film
dfranzen7031 August 2000
The Big Kahuna

This three-character movie, based on the play by Roger Rueff, deals with salesmen who are somewhat impatiently waiting for a very important business client - a.k.a. The Big Kahuna - on whom the fortunes of their company rests. Should they land the contract with this mysterious bigwig, their company will prosper. If they don't land the contract, of course, then they're all sunk.

Larry (Kevin Spacey) and Phil (Danny DeVito) are the salesmen, and Bob (Peter Facinelli) is the marketing guy. Bob's a rookie, and Larry and Phil try to prep him for handling himself with potential customers. They've rented the hospitality suite in the hotel to entertain their clients and are planning on having a small party, hoping that the Big Kahuna will show up. No, it's not Waiting for Godot, but it's along those lines.

This is basically a character study. There's a lot of dialog - virtually the entire movie takes place in the suite, with only a few very minor scenes outside it - and each word is absolutely dripping with meaning. There aren't any throwaway lines in this movie, folks. Most movies contain generic lines that would fit in any similar movie. Not this one. If you're a fan of well-written movies, this is a prime example of how one should be constructed.

But with such an emphasis on the dialog, there's naturally little action. This is always a problem with movies based on plays. They come off restrained, stagey, and claustrophobic. But the lack of action actually gives the viewer the opportunity to watch two decidedly different acting styles. Spacey is bombastic, punctuating each syllable with a sneer or a rant. DeVito, on the other hand, is more reserved and appears wizened as a result. Each actor turns in a stunning performance, with Spacey basically reprising the role he played in Glengarry Glen Ross. The only one who seems out of place is Facinelli, who is ineffective as Bob the marketing guy.

The Big Kahuna is compelling, as long as you don't mind talky comedy-dramas.
21 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Manal198724 May 2009
For some, this movie might seem quite boring. What's the point in watching three men talking in one room for almost two hours?! But tell you what?.. this movie is not boring at all! There's almost no storyline to speak of, but the script is more than beautiful. It will turn you into one big attentive ear. In addition, Kevin Spacey with his wonderful performance and entertaining sense of humor and wit made this movie a must-see. The movie doesn't want you to side with any of the three characters; it simply displays three different samples of human nature, and their views on the world (especially the concept of appearance vs reality).
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Godot meets Glengary meets Andre meets Rope
tedg5 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

It is truly interesting to see what films successful actors craft for themselves. If it doesn't define the true character, it surely reflects on the core of how they see their art. This is Spacey's creation, and it speaks highly of what he is about.

Spacey and DeVito are not multidimensional actors. That is, they don't present simultaneous views (like say Hoffman and Penn). No, they aren't modern in this sense, instead find a single center and use it to manipulate a thread, instead shifting that thread up into introspection, down into `action,' up again into that space where art meets life. For such actors, the writing is central - everything centers on conversation and focus.

So here, we have a film about conversation; about whether conversations have their own fate; whether directed conversations can be honest, which is the same as exploring the nature of whether acting can be honest. The dialog is in one world at a time, but shifts among acting as being human, acting as being `marketeers,' acting as being actors.

This shift is managed by toggling the focus: the Big Kahuna flips among a key sales target (Fuller, Dick), God, a disembodied Godot called Murdock, and all of three actors.

DeVito is one of the most intelligent film people in Hollywood, going so far as making a comedy from Nabokov (`Momma'). Spacey has focus, and cares to fabricate something that manipulates and tells us so and why.

`If you know what you are doing, you don't have to look like you know what you are doing.'

Put this on the shelf with Andre and Vanya. It is worth experiencing.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A true underrated gem of a movie.
CLOSE_67 March 2008
Only the other night whilst watching an episode of Taxi did I remember seeing a film with Kevin Spacey and Danny Devito about six years ago, there was just one problem, I couldn't remember what it was called, hours turned into days, sleepless nights became more sleepless and I still couldn't remember, but I did remember thinking it was rather great. Well imagine my surprise upon venturing into my local poundland and finding a movie called Big Kahuna featuring, you guessed it Kevin Spacey and Danny Devito, with the biggest grin on my face, the feeling that I'd achieved a minor accomplishment, a 12 pack of Dorito's and some scented bin liners I approached the checkout, paid and promptly headed home. A pound, one whole English pound for a movie I would gladly pay twenty for any day, because this is truly a great little movie, granted not much really happens and settings nothing new, but when you've got such fantastic performances from a fantastic cast there can be no complaints, Dany Devito has rarely been better, this disaffected soul is genuinely someone you can feel for and completely side with, Kevin Spacey is, well Kevin Spacey and lets face it that has never been a bad thing, every time he talks you listen, Peter Facinelli gives a very subtle but no less engrossing performance, but on the whole the real star is Roger Rueff, the script is just beautiful with great line after great line flowing from the mouths of a great cast, it really makes you want to see it on the stage. This is a great little film that any self respecting film fan should at least give a go. I'm heading down to Poundland to buy up the remaining copies and I'm gonna hand them out to my friends.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A surprising treat
solojones22 February 2002
When I saw this movie, I had one sole motivation- It had Kevin Spacey in it. That, in my opinion, makes any of his films worth at least a glance. He's so brilliant. Also, I was in the mood for a good comedy. This film presented me with both the expected comedy and brilliant performance by Spacey. However, I guess I neglected to read up on what this movie was all about first.

Let me say that, as a Christian (and a Baptist), the portrayal of Bob is the single most realistic on screen portrayal of a true Christian that I have ever seen. Bravo to them for not giving into cliches! While some attacks were made on Bob's faith, they weren't presented as right or wrong, but different view points. I was frankly shocked (pleasently) by this film. I would deffinately recommend it.

Also, I am not a particurally big DeVito fan, but he turns in a truly moving and realistic performance in this film.

4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Promising start leads to existential mush
davebrok28 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Big Kahuna starts promising but falls into a didactic tailspin from which it never recovers. The setup - three business men, all in a different life stage, is elegant and sparse, and allows the three characters to develop fully. By the end of the movie, we are fed a desperate moral theory that "regret builds character" along with (I kid you not) several minutes of voice-over aphorisms. What happened? Instead of sending the movie into where it should have gone, namely ambiguity as to a) what matters to the characters, b) what is at stake, c) what wisdom can possibly be recovered from the mess that the characters get themselves into, we are instead led to a basement of philosophical knickknacks. Failing a reasonable ending, it would at least have been nice to see the characters grow... or perhaps engage in some entertaining pyrotechnics. On the plus side we get to hear grown men say they love each other, so not all is lost...the dream recounting is also well planned & executed.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The big conversation
paul2001sw-116 February 2007
'The Big Kahuna' is actually just a big conversation, a three-way encounter between a trio of industry representatives hoping to entice an important client. And the combination of a lively script and a heavyweight cast delivers the goods, Danny de Vito is strong and (in the most interesting role) Kevin Spacey is excellent; Peter Facinelli is OK, but his part offers less scope to the actor. But for all the quality, it's a bit hard to see the focal point of the drama is supposed to be about. Spacey plays a pushy, egotistical salesman whose frustration with the self-righteous Facinelli suddenly boils over; the extension from the everyday to the existential is well-handled but never opens the heart of the character to us, de Vito vouches for him but it's not quite enough. The use of Baz Luhrman's feel-good but platitudinous 'Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen' over the closing credits feels like a glib opt out of forcing the drama to stand on its own feet. An interesting film nonetheless.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This was a David Mamet Wanna-be
dxpedlar7 October 2000
This film was a David Mamet wanna-be. It lacks the twisted and subtle inter-personal relationships that would be necessary to bring life to an endlessly hard driving dialogue. This emptiness was emphasized by Kevin Spacey who is usually a master of this genre when backed up with the right script and direction. Consequence: this picture demanded my attention for no good reason. I'd give it a 6.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Every line is a
Joakunz27 September 2015
As always, I review a movie on its own premise. Is this the most interesting point in the lives of these people? Probably not. Is it the most interesting point for the viewer? Depending on your proclivities, maybe not. But in terms on chemistry, interaction and development, for me, this is circling perfection.

It's hard how to describe this film. An ensemble of three manages to keep your attention for 90 minutes, enduring an existence seemingly entirely focused around industrial lubricants. You would think that was impossible, till you see DeVito dance character-circles around a heavy weight like Kevin Spacy, and see relative new-comer Peter Facinelli go toe-to-toe with both of them, like it was the easiest thing in the world.

This is a showcase of acting ability, more than anything else. This is skill versus the emptiness of the premise. Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey and Peter Facinelli puts in mind- and trouser-blowingly good performances, that will make any actor think twice before they take on this script (it being based on Hospitality Suite, by Roger Rueff).

And speaking of which, you will not often see Kevin Spacey be out- acted by anyone, but DeVito puts in a performance that would shake gods to their foundations (fittingly, as you may come to understand). The emotions and timing at display here, are far, far beyond what you might expect from a small movie - but Spaceys production undoubtedly allowed for just that (including his own).

As a story-teller, I often view a scene or two from this, at random, just to soak in a bit of the glorious performances, and brilliant matter-of-factness there seems to be to this entire, spectacular celebration of an art form.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Excellent introspective on work, belief and morals.
rbkrbk8 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
First, this is NOT about three salesmen. Rather, it is Spacey as a salesman, Divito as a Marketing Executive and Facinelli as a young engineer sent along to his first convention as a technical support guy. Pay no attention to any review that can't even correctly identify the three main characters.

This is not a comedy. It is a drama. It is a less cynical Death of a Salesman; a more reflective Glenngary Glen Ross. Expect complicated conversations that you may want to rewind and parse again. Expect to have your assumptions challenged and your heart touched.

Watch this if you want an intelligent examination of work, belief and morals.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not For Everyone
BoomerDT25 December 2014
Suppose a screenwriter is pitching this to a studio exec:

"Well, it's about 3 salesmen for an industrial lubricant company, in Wichita for a trade show. 2 of them are middle-aged, rather jaded about their occupation and life in general. The third is a new guy, recently married and graduated from college, who is also a devout Christian. Virtually everything takes place in a hotel hospitality suite they rented to entertain clients, specifically to meet 1 important client ("The Big Kahuna") who, if they could secure his business, could turn their struggling company around. The 3 of them discuss what our purpose is in this life and what it all means"

Exec: "So do they have this drunken orgy with strippers and get the young guy loaded and caught in a compromising position with a hooker, just when his newlywed wife arrives, having decided to surprise him on his first business trip?"

"No. It's just the three of them, talking in hospitality suite"

Exec: "Well, how about going another direction. Islamic terrorists seize the hotel and will blow it and everyone in the place to smithereens by midnight, unless $100 million dollars is wired to an off-shore account. The mild-mannered Christian turns out to be an ex-Navy seal who thwarts the plot and kills all the terrorists"

"Uh, no. They just talk, although the Christian guy does shove one of them into a food tray."

Kind of hard to see how this got made, but if you get a pair of actors like Spacey and DeVito for the 2/3 of the cast, maybe you can sell it. The smartest thing writer Roger Rueff and director John Swanbeck did was keeping this to 90 minutes, although it probably could have easily just been a 1hour drama. As a person in marketing and sales I found a lot of this very interesting and perceptive. I can also see how many could find this whole thing tiresome and boring.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Watered down Mamet meets "Waiting For Godot"
george.schmidt27 April 2004
THE BIG KAHUNA (2000) **1/2 Kevin Spacey, Danny De Vito, Peter Facinelli. (Dir: John Swanback)

Kevin Spacey, arguably one of our finest actors performing today and with a recent Oscar win as Best Actor in the Best Picture of the Year, `American Beauty', has talent to burn and in his current display of subtle, nuanced brio he takes a step down in this indie satire that he produced, as a pet project.

Spacey stars as Larry Mann, a fast-talking, smug and perhaps too sharp for his own good marketing salesman for a midWestern industrial lubricant manufacturer who is one of three fellow travelers setting up a much anticipated greet/meet with an important client (the eponymous moniker he uses as a mantra to signify the underlining of its significance) in the unlikely hotel suite in Wichita, Kansas.

Also on board are his best friend and longtime associate Phil Cooper (De Vito in a wonderfully low-keyed, yet bluntly hewned turn) and green recruit Bob Walker (Facinelli, who I am hard pressed to keep from comparing him to a Tom Cruise manque, and proved wrong I might add by his performance that requires full concentration and total believeablilty for his task at hand), who contradict the self-assured Larry, who has convened the trio on their cramped luxury accomodations, by being there for one sole purpose: land the grand account.

What makes the story intriguing is the cutting dialogue lobbed with perfection by its players that manage to raise it above a watered down David Mamet parable about men bonding (and unbonding as the case remains) and the cunning skill it takes to be a businessman and shirking one's individuality for the almighty buck. That's when the film on itself nearly capsizes.

Basically the storyline unfolds like `Waiting For Godot', the three salesman have set up a cocktail party for their meeting with this red herring of sorts, and what ultimately comes down the pike is he shows but unknowingly to Larry and Phil, has had a heart to heart with the young Bob. Realizing they only have one shot when Bob casually describes a warm conversation leading to an invitation to an exclusive gathering late in the evening, Larry and Phil persuade their cohort to ingratiate himself into the good graces of their client-to-be which results in an unlikely turn of events: namely the subject of one's self-beliefs (i.e. what one considers important and in this case it is Bob's straight-arrow image and his strong will in being a faithful, God-fearing man who loves his wife and believes there's more to life than this account).

Spacey and De Vito, reunited from `L.A. Confidential' make a nice comic team as they try to make sense of their lives, particularly the latter's downward spiral since his pending divorce and sudden sense of getting out of the business, leaving the former flummoxed and later, to a fault, self-discovery that it may have been too late.

There are some comparisons to a Billy Wilder sense of responsiblities here and the stagy direction by theatrical trained Swanback (the piece was performed onstage as well) but that only enhances the nicely conveyed characters on screen. Spacey has a lot of fun here particularly in having his character display some spontaneous feats of frustration to comic effect: in one scene he practically has a hissy fit on a sofa and in another his apoplectic facial reactions are only harnessed by his sarcastic responses. Funny and enlightening: a rare combination. The same could be said of Kevin Spacey himself.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A fantastic disaster of a movie
Lofwer7 May 2000
The Big Kahuna is a pretentious, preachy, overblown film. To make matters worst, it is painfully uncinematic. It bears the scars of its lineage, meaning that it is obviously a play adapted to the screen. And it does not bear the transfer well. The director, a first timer, tries to work in interesting cinematic techniques, but he doesn't do it enough, and you end up feeling like you're watching a play. But the play isn't even good, as it was in other films with the same problem (I'm thinking of Oleanna here). THe simple fact of the matter is that this story didn't need to be told, didn't want to be told, and is not told well. The acting? Danny DeVito's alright, I suppose, but he has that earnest nice guy look he has in most of his work these days. Kevin Spacey sinks way below the heights he reached in American Beauty. Spacey bitches and moans and proves once more that he can overact with the best of them. The fact that Spacey also produced this film makes it even sadder: this was Spacey's idea of a good movie. This movie has nothing to recommend it. THe story is flat and uninteresting, and builds to an intense conclusion that is full of emotion and energy, but is completely undeserved by what came before it. This is a total piece of garbage. One of the worst movies I've ever seen.
14 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
MikeyB179314 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A marvellous film covering many different subject areas. It is minimalist as most of it takes place in a hotel suite. It's a business convention where three salesmen (Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli) are selling a product. In short, they are trying to get a big monetary sales deal going with one client. Only their young cohort (Peter Facinelli) manages to encounter this customer, but the conversation gets side-tracked and the deal never goes through. I won't let you in on the details – but this leads to many an encounter – some of them quite impassioned.

There are several areas covered – friendship, the nature of work, youthful and older employees, and religion – all of it in a very real and direct way. For a film with such a broad spectrum of topics bordering on the philosophical, it never becomes pretentious or wordy. The script lifts this film into several intense confrontations. The actors enhance all this - particularly Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito. Their performances are magnetic and really something to behold.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Art of the deal.
cmyklefty5 January 2002
Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli star are three industrial lubricant salesmen at a convention in Wichita. They have a party for clients in their hotel suite, and await the arrival of a major company head for the business they need the deal. The Big Kahuna is an excellent study of characters in the movie. Kevin Spacey did Glengarry Glen Ross seven years before, which is similar acting style but in a smaller cast. DeVito, Facinelli and Spacey did an excellent job acting in the movie. It was so smooth their characters, that I felt I want to know these characters.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The end result of being deluged by disappointments!!
dataconflossmoor6 November 2006
Three lubricant salesman are staying at a hotel in Wichita to lure the most powerful man in the district (The Big Kahuna)...The three men are Kevin Spacey; a slightly beaten man who is seemingly flippant about failure...Danny DeVito; an exhausted individual who is seeking some kind of spirituality in his life, and Peter Facinelli; a young and maverick salesman who lives by the straight and narrow and turns to Jesus for answers!! The setting is all pretty much laid out to establish the genre and imagery of this film... The frumpy and unassuming western end of the Midwest (Wichita)...An emphatically uneventful aspect of the adjective "upscale", by way of an anonymous Raddissson hotel...Cheese and crackers, instead of gulf shrimp!! Last but not least, the indication that a lot of sales excursions for these three men have resulted in less than aupicatory satisfaction!!! Ultimately, what clinches the motif of monumental failure in these three men's lives is that they are painfully reminded of how disappointing the whole sales rigmarole can be!! It is alright to fail, however, failure must have a reason, and now, for Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito, recrimination must serve a constructive purpose!! Being lambasted by mediocrity has become the insidious social hindrance which has aggregately demoralized both of them!! For these two, their Horatio Alger spirits have been utterly vitiated!!! This is a very ideologically riveting concept that the film "The Big Kahuna" purveys!!

The intense emotions in this movie are extremely realistic!! Kevin Spacey's performance is remarkable!!! The ideological premise of life having a cohesive plausibility has been totally obliterated in this film!!! For better or for worse, reality has now become vicariously abusive!!! The resonating attitudes for the main characters in this movie ultimately emerged with all three men have a clearer understanding of one another. I found this movie to be identifiable and poignant!! Upper middle class hang-ups have effortlessly thwarted as well as devoured all three of these men!!! Failure to close a sale transcends the loss of commission, it also serves as an indictment on an individual's charisma!! The outstanding portrayal of recognizable human inadequacies is the key component as to why I strongly recommend that every salesperson in this country sees this film!!
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Polaro24 April 2000
The Big Kahuna is such a complete misfire that I was tempted to leave the theatre 30 minutes into it. There is absolutely no chemistry between the three leads, something that is extremely important in a film of this kind. Kevin Spacey wears thin after about 5 minutes and the rest of his performance is excrutiatingly mannered. A pompous and empty film.
6 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Big Nothing (lots of spoilers, but what is there to spoil?)
Frankjwilliams21 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Friday night.

Me and a friend figured it'd be a good plan to rent a movie, before going out. After a chanceless expedition to find something worthwhile, 'Identity' and 'The Big Kahuna' were the only two movies we nominated. We flipped a coin and it was heads, so we rented 'The Big Kahuna'. Alright, Kevin Spacey, Danny de Vito, what could go wrong? During the first 15 minutes of the movie, it felt it could turn out good, although the constant blabbering of Spacey's character started to annoy. Three guys: two marketing veterans, De Vito and Spacey, and a new guy, in a hotel room planning a reception to get some big cheese business guy to use their lubricants. After 30 minutes, nothing has changed. There's only conversation. We start to think this movie was made in one day, and in one take. Every half ass bit of dialogue stayed in somehow. And all of a sudden, after 45 minutes... NOTHING, still nothing! Dear god! I guess the screenwriter, who also wrote the original play, must have thought that if he'd just let the characters talk on and on and say quasé intelligent and insightful things, he would have a brilliant movie. Then there's the reception which the whole movie is about. Big cheese dude doesn't show up, Spacey's character goes halfway nuts (but not in a funny or cool way, just annoying), De Vito doesn't care (he doesn't care about anything, which IS interesting) and the new guy doesn't know whether he cares. New guy spoke to big businessman, didn't know it was him, got a card and went to big businessman's party, it all leads to nothing.

Nearing the end there are some decent conversation between De Vito and the new guy and that's about it.

Now, a movie were nothing happens can be very interesting, when there is great dialogue, likeable characters, great actors, and some kind of coming of age-ending, but this movie offers none of those features. 98 percent of the movie takes place in the terribly boring hotel room, which makes you want to sleep, the overall pace of the film does so even more. I'm sorry if I've spoiled the whole movie for you, but then again, you could say, I've saved you a couple of bucks, which you can now invest in beer or food.
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Big Pitch
rmax30482310 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A movie with both strengths and weaknesses. The story has three salesmen -- or marketers as they like to call themselves -- holed up in a hotel room waiting and hoping for the Big Kahuna, the jackpot client, to show up at their party.

Among the strengths, the sterling cast -- Kevin Spacey as the wisecracking but perceptive pusher; Danny DeVito as the recently divorced, troubled friend; and Peter Facinelli as the morally pure Baptist acolyte. That's about the whole cast, and there's basically one setting -- that arid hotel room -- because this play hasn't really been opened up much.

The actors -- I don't know how to put this -- but they LOOK right for their parts. Kevin Spacey as they guy who debases most others, and Facinelli as the plain-faced innocent are especially good. Danny DeVito may be the weakest of the trio, if only because he never really LOOKS depressed. Can you imagine a suicidally melancholic Danny DeVito?

Another strength is in the lines written for Spacey's character. His dialog varies from resignation to something that turns logic into an Escher drawing or a Mobius strip, in which everything seems to lead back to where it began. Some are hilarious.

Alas, a play or movie has to be ABOUT something. The diverse salesmen as a way of exploring character is so old that it MUST be trustworthy, from the Maysles brothers' "Salesman", to "Tin Men" and "Glen Gary Glen Ross." Yet, we don't know what these guys are supposed to be selling, some kind of lubricant, but that's all.

And there's a religious element of the kind that's best left masked by events. Not only does Facinelli continually reveal his spiritual purity but Danny DeVito, unprovoked, spins a long and improbable story of a dream he had about rescuing God who was hiding in a closet after some calamity.

I said it was "improbable" only because my own dreams are entirely lacking in the kind of clarity, unity, and organization that DeVito's dream had. Also, while I'm at it, is it okay if I register a minor complaint to whoever is in charge of the lighting that I'm getting pretty fed up with the overuse of burnt orange? And they're too dark too. And can I please have more women and fewer ogres?

When the characters discuss God and religion and all that, it sounds like a couple of college sophomores earnestly schmoozing over some weed. It all seems like an attempt to elevate the story to a plane on which it simply doesn't belong.

The strengths outpace the weaknesses by a head.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed