Nothing but Trouble (1991 film)

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Nothing but Trouble
Nothing but trouble poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Dan Aykroyd
Produced by
Screenplay by Dan Aykroyd
Story by Peter Aykroyd
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by
  • Malcolm Campbell
  • James R. Symons
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • February 15, 1991 (1991-02-15) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[1]
Box office $8.4 million[1]

Nothing but Trouble is a 1991 American horror comedy film directed by Dan Aykroyd in his directorial debut, and written by Aykroyd based on a story by Peter Aykroyd. Chevy Chase and Demi Moore star as yuppies who are taken to court for speeding in the bizarre, financially bankrupt small town of Valkenvania. Dan Aykroyd costars as the town's 106-year-old judge, Alvin Valkenheiser, who holds a personal grudge against financiers, and John Candy has a supporting role as Valkenheiser's grandson, chief of police Dennis Valkenheiser. The film's tone was compared by critics to films such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Psycho, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as The Munsters. The film's humor was described as being derived from sketch comedy and gross-out humor.

Production commenced in 1990 under the title Git, which was changed in production to Valkenvania. Subsequently, prior to the film's release, Warner Bros. changed the title to Nothing but Trouble; director Dan Aykroyd, in a press statement released in December 1990, said that he preferred the Valkenvania title. The film was noted for its strongly negative reception, with critics panning the film for its humor, screenplay, tone and direction. Aykroyd would go on to receive a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie at the 12th Golden Raspberry Awards.



While hosting a party in his Manhattan penthouse, financial publisher Chris Thorne (Chase) meets lawyer Diane Lightson (Moore) and agrees to escort her to consult a client in Atlantic City on the following day. Thorne's clients, obnoxious but wealthy Brazilian siblings Fausto and Renalda Squiriniszu, meet up with them and invite themselves along. Chris takes a detour off of the New Jersey Turnpike, ultimately ending up in the run-down village of Valkenvania. After running a stop sign and subsequently attempting to escape pursuing officer Dennis Valkenheiser (Candy), the group is captured and taken before Dennis's 106-year-old grandfather Judge Alvin Valkenheiser (Aykroyd). After Chris offends the judge, he traps the yuppies in a hidden room under his courthouse to be judged the next day, and they overhear the judge violently executing a group of convicted drunk drivers in a deadly roller coaster nicknamed "Mr. Bonestripper". Chris, Diane and the Brazilians attend the judge's dinner, learning that the Judge is holding them there out of revenge for a coal deal which the Valkenheiser family blames for their poverty. The group attempts an escape, but Chris and Diane are captured by Alvin's mute granddaughter Eldona (also Candy). Meanwhile, being chased by Dennis' trigger-happy cousin, Miss Purdah, the Brazilians escape by cutting a deal with Dennis, who decides to escape with them.

The Judge holds Chris and Diane hostage, but they eventually escape, get lost through hidden hallways and slides and become separated. Diane makes it out of the house and into the property's salvage yard; here, she meets two troll-like creatures by the names of Bobo and Lil' Debbull, the judge's severely deformed grandchildren. Earning the creatures' friendship, Diane catches glimpses of Eldona destroying Chris's BMW 733i. Chris sneaks into the Judge's personal quarters but is quickly caught. Valkenheiser punishes him according to house policy, which decrees that Chris must marry Eldona. Meanwhile, in the court room, Digital Underground is being held on charges of speeding, but the Judge releases them after being charmed by an impromptu rap performance. He also asks them to stay as witnesses for the wedding, which Chris reluctantly goes through with in exchange for his life, but is later caught pleading the band to help him escape. The band leaves without understanding him, and a furious Alvin sentences Chris to die in "Mr. Bonestripper". The machine breaks down the instant before Chris is fed into it, and he escapes. The Judge nearly kills Diane with another claw contraption, but Chris retrieves her at the last second and the two jump on a freight train back to New York. After the two report their plight to the authorities, the Judge's courthouse is raided by local and state police. Chris and Diane are asked to accompany the officers to the site, only to find out that the officers involved are fully aware of and in league with the Judge. The couple escapes when the area's underground coal fires cause a collapse, destroying the town. Chris and Diane return to New York, but Chris sees the judge on television, brandishing Chris's driver's license, announcing that he and his family plan to move in with his new grandson-in-law in New York.

Style and interpretation[edit]

Entertainment Weekly, Vibe and Den of Geek described the film as a horror comedy.[2][3][4] The Los Angeles Times critic Peter Rainer wrote, "The intention seems to be a slap-happy cross between Psycho and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein".[5] Lou Cedrone, writing for the Baltimore Sun, said that the film "plays like a comedy version of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films."[6] Candice Russel, writing for the Sun-Sentinel, called Nothing but Trouble a "variation on The Rocky Horror Picture Show".[7] The film's humor was described by critics as deriving from gross-out humor[8][9] and sketch comedy.[10] Nathan Rabin interpreted the film's plot as "[tapping] into a fear common among wealthy Manhattan yuppies: that once they leave the cozy confines of the five boroughs, inbred hillbillys will try to kill them for being wealthy Manhattan yuppies."[8]


The film marked comedian, writer and actor Dan Aykroyd's debut as a director.

The film commenced production on May 7, 1990 in Los Angeles, California, under the title Git, marking Dan Aykroyd's directorial debut.[10] On July 12, the title was changed to Valkenvania.[10][11] The "Valkenheiser" mansion, Town Hall, and other environments were constructed on two soundstages at Warner Bros. Studios; one of the set pieces, dubbed "Autohenge", was a garden constructed of scrap metal. Designer William Sandell was inspired by his previous experience as a kinetic sculptor.[10] The production designers acquired props and decorations from “every prop resource in town,” as well as Aykroyd's personal collection.[10]

The Greystone Mansion in Los Angeles was used to shoot the scenes depicting Chris Thorne's New York City apartment. Exteriors were also shot in the Lehigh Valley, 60 miles North of Pennsylvania; second-unit photography occurred in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City.[10] The American Film Institute could not determine the film's budget, but contemporary reviews suggested that the film's production design indicated a "generous budget".[10] Box Office Mojo lists the film's production budget as $40 million.[1]


Nothing but Trouble
Nothing But Trouble 1991 soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album
Released 1990
Label Warner Bros.
Singles from Nothing but Trouble
  1. "Same Song"
    Released: 1991
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2.5/5 stars[12]
  1. "The Good Life" - Ray Charles
  2. "Same Song" - Digital Underground
  3. "Get Over" - Nick Scotti
  4. "Big Girls Don't Cry" - Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
  5. "Tie The Knot" - Digital Underground
  6. "Bonestripper" - Damn Yankees
  7. "Atlantic City (Is a Party Town)" - Elwood Blues Revue
  8. "La Chanka" - Bertila Damas
  9. "I Mean I Love You" - Hank Williams Jr.
  10. "Valkenvania Suite" - Michael Kamen


1991 promotional illustration by Boris Vallejo.[13]

In December 1990, Warner Bros. changed the film's title to Nothing but Trouble. On December 20, Dan Aykroyd stated in a press release that he would always think of the film as Valkenvania.[10] A promotional illustration by Boris Vallejo was commissioned in 1991.[13]

The film was released on February 15, 1991.[10] According to Box Office Mojo, the film opened at #8 in 1,671 theaters, grossing $3,966,240 opening weekend. The site lists its total gross upon completed release as $8,479,793, with a 50.5% drop-off in its second week of release.[1] In 1992, at the 12th Golden Raspberry Awards, Aykroyd received a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie.[14] Chevy Chase later expressed dislike for the film, saying he only accepted the role of Chris Thorne because of his friendship with Aykroyd.[15]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was panned by critics.[10] Chris Hicks, writing for the Deseret News wrote, "though Aykroyd seems to be having the time of his life as the judge, Chase, Candy and Moore appear much less animated than usual [and] downright embarrassed in some scenes."[16] Writing for The New York Times, Vincent Canby criticized Aykroyd's script, believing its narrative had "loose ends", and said "the movie looks less funny than expensive."[17] The Hollywood Reporter criticized the film's comedy, considering it to be "skit-level".[10] The Los Angeles Times critic Peter Rainer wrote, "if you're in the mood to be clobbered with stale jokes, it might seem fitfully amusing. Occasionally, the talents of the cast burn through the haze of misfires and remembered routines."[5]

Lou Cedrone, writing for the Baltimore Sun, said that "If there is a laugh here, it goes by unnoticed."[6] The Chicago Tribune critic Dave Kehr wrote that "Valkenvania bids fair to become one of the legendary disasters of the movie business, a movie so unfunny, so distasteful and so painful to watch that you can't take your eyes off it."[18] Jay Boyar, writing for the Orlando Sentinel wrote, "the problem is that the neophyte director appears to believe that being gross, in itself, is enough. Even John Waters, in his Pink Flamingos period, realized that wit was also necessary. Besides, Waters was genuinely outrageous in a startlingly original way. The grotesquerie of Aykroyd's film reminded me of a disturbed child trying to gross out a friend on the playground."[9] Candice Russel, writing for the Sun-Sentinel, wrote that "this mean-spirited effort by Aykroyd proves that he cannot write an effective comedy. If he's acting, he should leave the direction to someone else."[7] Washington Post writer Hal Hinson called the film "nothing but trouble and agony and pain and suffering and obnoxious, toxically unfunny bad taste. It's nothing but miserable."[19]

Entertainment Weekly critic Michael Sauter wrote, "[Aykroyd and Candy] generate approximately four laughs. Chase adds maybe two. In movie-ticket terms, that’s less than one laugh per dollar; as a video rental, it’s a slightly better deal."[20] The same publication printed a second review by Owen Gleiberman, writing, "Most of the jokes are so lame that Chevy Chase can’t even be bothered to look nonchalant. A sadder excuse for a movie would be hard to imagine."[2] Writing for People, Ralph Novak wrote that "After a few minutes, it’s clear that this comedy is not enigmatic—just hopelessly confused."[21] Empire writer Jo Berry wrote, "Unfortunately this isn't even half as fun as the shortest bumper-car ride, with the cast lost in a sea of unfunny situations and badly executed antique jokes on loan from The Munsters all obviously puzzled about why they are actually there."[22] A Variety staff review opined, "It's a good bet a film is in trouble when the highlight comes from seeing John Candy in drag."[23] A TV Guide staff review opined, "Aykroyd's film has a relentless imbecility that allows it to stand with films such as Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, John Goldfarb Please Come Home and Which Way to the Front? as one of the worst attempts at comedy ever filmed."[24]

The review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 5%.[25] Nathan Rabin, in his My Year of Flops segment for The AV Club, wrote, "Aykroyd here has lovingly, meticulously created a hideous, grotesque nightmare world nobody in their right mind would want to visit the first time around, let alone return to."[8] IGN named Nothing but Trouble as Dan Aykroyd's worst film.[26] Conversely, however, the film has also received praise, with Complex listing Nothing but Trouble as one of "25 Underrated 90s Comedies"; staff writer Matt Barone called it "a strangely magnetic clusterfuck of a high-concept comedy."[27] IFC listed Nothing but Trouble as one of "10 '90s Comedies That Really Need Sequels".[28]


  1. ^ a b c d Nothing but Trouble at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ a b "Nothing But Trouble". 1 March 1991. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  3. ^ "Vibe". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  4. ^ "The Movie Stars Who Have Only Directed One Film". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  5. ^ a b RAINER, PETER (18 February 1991). "MOVIE REVIEW : Aykroyd No Triple Threat in 'Trouble'". Retrieved 4 May 2018 – via LA Times. 
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ a b "Comedy Isn`t Worth The Trouble Of Buying A Ticket". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  8. ^ a b c Rabin, Nathan. My Year of Flops. New York: AV Club., 2007
  9. ^ a b "'King Ralph,' 'Nothing But Trouble' Just For Laughs Aykroyd Effort Lacks Wit To Balance The Grossness". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "AFI-Catalog". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  11. ^ Starlog #161, December 1990, p. 9
  12. ^ "Nothing But Trouble - Original Soundtrack - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". 
  13. ^ a b Press, Ivy (1 October 2006). "HAG Fine Art Illustration Catalog #638". Heritage Capital Corporation. Retrieved 4 May 2018 – via Google Books. 
  14. ^ "Razzie's vote 'Hudson Hawk' year's worst film". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  15. ^ Fruchter, Rena. I'm Chevy Chase and You're Not. London: Virgin Books Ltd., 2007, p. 158.
  16. ^ Hicks, Chris. "Film review: Nothing But Trouble". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  17. ^ Canby, Vincent. "Review/Film; In a Dungeon for Speeders, Somewhere in New Jersey". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  18. ^ "Pass The Bromo, Christmas` Worst Leftover Is Being Served". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  19. ^ Hinson, Hal. "Nothing but Trouble (PG-13)". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  20. ^ "Nothing But Trouble". 27 September 1991. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  21. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Nothing but Trouble". 4 March 1991. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  22. ^ Berry, Jo. "Nothing But Trouble". Empire. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  23. ^ Staff, Variety (1 January 1991). "Nothing But Trouble". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  24. ^ "Nothing But Trouble". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  25. ^ "Nothing But Trouble (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 10, 2015. 
  26. ^ P, Ken (29 September 2003). "Featured Filmmaker: Dan Aykroyd". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  27. ^ "25 Underrated '90s ComediesNothing But Trouble (1991)". Complex. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  28. ^ "10 '90s Comedies That Really Need Sequels". Retrieved 4 May 2018. 

External links[edit]