In Defense Of 'Nothing But Trouble,' A Macabre Screwball Gem From The '90s

Released in 1991, Nothing but Trouble was DOA. It was meant to be a horror-comedy, but most reviews at the time claimed it lacked the necessary scares or laughs the mixed genre required. However, the film garnered a second life on HBO and in video rental stores across the country, and freaked out pretty much anyone who managed to catch this legitimately weird movie. So maybe it did its job, in the end. 

Is Nothing but Trouble the worst movie ever? It’s definitely not the best, but its badness comes more from a lack of a cohesive tone and poor pacing than from it just being a bad movie. And even though it’s not the best-structured movie, it’s very entertaining. What other movie features Dan Aykroyd with a hideously suggestive nose, John Candy in drag, Tupac Shakur, and Demi Moore playing cards with two infantile troglodytes while she’s locked in a cage? Maybe Nothing but Trouble is the most entertaining movie ever made. 


  • Dan Aykroyd Plays Two Grotesque Roles

    Dan Aykroyd was a busy man on the set of Nothing but Trouble. He not only co-wrote the script with his brother, he also directed the film. On top of all that, he plays two prosthetic-heavy parts. The first is the film's main antagonist, Judge Alvin "J.P" Valkenheiser, a decrepit old coot who is literally falling apart. He's nasty and gross, and it's impossible to look away from him when he's on screen. 

    Aykroyd's second role is Bobo, a weird mutant adult-baby who spends the entire movie in a diaper and slathered in some kind of goo. What kind of goo? No one ever says, so you'll have to assume it's something normal and not gross at all. Just kidding - it's very upsetting. 

  • John Candy Also Doubles Up On His Roles

    Even though he plays two roles, there's not enough John Candy in this movie. For the first half, Candy mostly appears as officer Dennis Valkenheiser, a constable who pulls over drivers that pass through his speed trap. At about the midpoint of the movie, the audience meets Eldona Valkenheiser, the judge's daughter - a character also played by Candy.

    Eldona is mostly silent through the back half of the film, with her appearance being more of a visual goof. Unlike Aykroyd, Candy doesn't wear a lot of prosthetics. Instead, he wears a series of unflattering dresses and wigs. None of it's bad; it's just strange to see Candy sidelined to a supporting role as a visual gag.  

  • Judge Valkenheiser's Nose Resembles A Certain Body Part

    Judge Valkenheiser is repellent to look at thanks to the pounds of prosthetics Aykroyd wears. Like some of the most repulsive horror monsters, the detail in Valkenheiser's makeup is astonishing - but there's one particular piece of it that's super gross. 

    Valkenheiser's nose very clearly resembles a man's privates. It's not immediately noticeable when the judge first appears, because the prosthetic changes depending on the scene, but in several close-ups, the suggestively shaped schnoz is 100% a ding dong.

    To really hammer the joke home, the most explicit prosthetic appears when the judge is chowing down on a soggy gray hot dog. The sight nearly makes Chevy Chase's character lose his lunch.

  • Valkenheiser Might Be Undead

    Technically, Judge Valkenheiser is 106 years old, but considering his physical state (he wears several prosthetic body parts), he might also be undead. Nothing but Trouble never gets into it, but there are some hints that the judge has been feeding on the poor folks that get trapped in his house of horrors. 

    The most overt hint arrives with the Digital Underground (yes, that Digital Underground). When the hip-hop group finds themselves in front of the judge, they note that his residence is "extremely Draculated." They probably mean that the residence is just spooky, but it's also a tip of the hat to the judge's status as a member of the undead. 

    Other hints to Valkenheiser's zombie-like nature include the piles of bones that fill his home, and his ability to survive the film's explosive finale.

  • '90s Rap Group Digital Underground - And Tupac - Perform In The Film

    Near the end of the film, the Digital Underground - of "The Humpty Dance" fame - show up in court because they were caught speeding in a hearse. When the group states that they're musicians, this piques the judge's interest (naturally, because he's played by bluesman Dan Aykroyd). After they treat Valkenheiser to a performance of "Same Song," in which the judge joins in on the organ, he happily lets them go. 

    As strange as the whole Digital Underground thing is - and it's very strange - the wildest part of the whole performance is that it features a young Tupac Shakur singing backup with the group. 

  • The Mansion Is A Funhouse Featuring Mechanisms Of Mayhem

    There are a lot of parts in Nothing but Trouble that don't work, either because of the writing or pacing, but one thing that's never a let down is the judge's mansion, the "Valkenheiser." It's a fully built-out funhouse complete with spinning beds, paintings with holes where the eyes should be, and a slide that takes the rider outside. 

    Built on the Warner Bros. soundstage, the mansion is an absolutely beautiful set. The detail alone makes the movie worth watching, especially in the scene where Chevy Chase finds his way into a room covered in driver licenses and newspaper clippings. The mansion is a little bit Pee-wee's Playhouse, a little bit Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and an unqualified feat of art direction.