What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
By Mike Derderian
A policeman pulls you over for crossing a yellow light? You argue that it was yellow but he insists it was red, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You get a ticket. A coaster bus control orders you to give up your seat for a woman? You snarl back at him saying, “can’t you see I am reading a book and the bus was full in the first place, so why did you stop for more passengers you greedy bastard.” Now what’s the worst thing that could happen? You are thrown out of the bus. A taxi driver indifferently lights a cigarette. You ask him to put it out but he refuses to do so; you open a window even though it is freezing outside. He angrily orders you to close it but you refuse. Now what’s the worst thing that could happen? Displaying annoyance and contempt he puts out the cigarette. You see kids climbing over a wall overlooking a fig tree, they are picking unripe fruit from its overstretching branches. What’s the worst thing that could happen? The owner of the tree comes running out of his house shouting at the kids.
You hate Martin Lawrence but you like Danny DeVito and John Leguizamo. What’s the worst that could happen? You end up watching all three as they act in Sam Weisman’s 2001What’s the Worst that Could Happen? This 94-minute comedy has its ups and downs; it is funny and… not so funny. Meaning: It has a lot of bad scenes and a few good ones.
What’s the Worst that Could Happen? meshes DeVito’s Ruthless People (1986) with Lawrence’s Nothing to Lose (1997) and Blue Streak (1999). Throw in Leguizamo’s The Pest (1997) and you almost have a bargain.
This movie is a two-wheeler for Martin Lawrence, who has been repeating himself unsuccessfully since the success of the summer blockbuster Bad Boys (1995). It has the same facial expressions, same hand gestures, same streetwise baloney and same high-pitched cry that Lawrence so perfectly delivers in most of his movies.
Now, any comedy act would turn dull unless a comedian finds new sources and comes up with better punch lines.
In addition to the three stooges, (DeVito, Lawrence and Leguizamo), Glenne Headly, Carmen Ejogo, Nora Dunn, William Fichtner, Sascha Knopf and Bernie Mac as Uncle Jack the fencer. No, a fencer is not a swordsman but a man, who sells the stolen goods that a thief brings to him. Bernie Mac was Bernie Mac.
Kevin (Lawrence) is a cat burglar, who unlike rooftop felines uses the front door to break into homes. He prides in what he does for a living and upon meeting the girl of his dreams Amber Belhaven (Ejogo), he doesn’t exactly hide that fact. Accepting what he is, Amber gives him her lucky charm—her father’s ring. A very hideous ring by the way fit for a mobster or a very rich guy, who doesn’t mind wearing diamonds around his fingers.
One night Kevin and Berger are out on a mission but as it turns out they mess with the wrong guy… oops I meant the short guy. They break into Max Fairbanks’s mansion. You know what they say, “when the cat is out the mouse loves to hang out.” Max (DeVito), who is married to the tight lipped and loaded Lutetia Fairbanks (Dunn), is the mouse and he was playing with Miss September Tracey Kimberly (Knopf).
Somehow Kevin ended up staring down Max’s gun barrel and the robber ended being robbed. As Kevin was about to be dragged away by cops, Max decided to steal the thief’s lucky charm: The ring that will govern them all and cast them in an entangled web of deceit and revenge. So as Duffy Duck says in such a situation, “This means war.”
There is a scene where Kevin (Lawrence) and Berger (Leguizamo) wear towels on their heads and pretend to be loaded Arab Sheiks, using a mesh of Arabic vocabulary—non-coherent non-plausible palatal sounds is not the Arabic language. Like many Arabs I don’t wear a towel—fabrique en La Grande-Bretagne—but thanks to some satellite channels most of us are perceived as such.
When a dumb Yankee impersonates Arabs in films—very stupidly— it would naturally annoy anyone who prides in being an Arab. Despite of that stupid scene Leguizamo, however, brilliantly manages as always to demonstrate his strong comedic and impersonation talents. Leguizamo also brings with him hints of other classic movies and Television shows like Vertigo and I love Lucy.
DeVito brings out his mean alter ego the same way he did in Ruthless People displaying the same contempt Sam Stone had for poodles only this time it was a poodle called Muffy
Glenne Headly, who played the role of Gloria Sidell, Max’s jealous mistress and fortuneteller, was a fun to watch. But the funniest of all was William Fichtner, who portrayed detective Alex Tardio. Now, Tardio is a very chic, elegant and a sophisticated policeman. You’ll love this guy.
Some of the jokes just fall flat on the floor, however, the film is still watch-able and can draw a few laughs out of us. It is Max puts it “Très Bizarre” but all you have to do is pay more attention for Leguizamo, Bernie Mac, Fichtner and DeVito.
Must-see-scenes: the manner by which Max swindles Kevin’s ring; when both Kevin and Berger pose as Arab Sheiks (because it gives us a good idea about stereotyping and how stupid it looks and sounds on screen when you are); Detective Alex Taardio’s stunning waltz into Max’s impounded home; and the auction near the end when all the crooks decide to pose as auctioneers and help sell Max’s house and positions.