The Big Kahuna (film)

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The Big Kahuna
The Big Kahuna DVD cover.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by John Swanbeck
Produced by Elie Samaha
Kevin Spacey
Andrew Stevens
Screenplay by Roger Rueff
Based on Hospitality Suite
by Roger Rueff
Starring Kevin Spacey
Danny Devito
Peter Facinelli
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography Anastas N. Michos
Edited by Peggy Davis
Distributed by Lions Gate Films
Release dates
  • September 16, 1999 (1999-09-16) (TIFF)
  • April 28, 2000 (2000-04-28) ( limited)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7 million[1]
Box office $3,728,888[1]

The Big Kahuna is a 1999 American comedy-drama film adapted from the play Hospitality Suite, written by Roger Rueff, who also wrote the screenplay. John Swanbeck, the director, makes few attempts to lessen this film's resemblance to a stage performance: the majority of the film takes place in a single hotel room, and nearly every single line of dialogue is spoken by one of the three actors.

The famous 1997 essay Wear Sunscreen is featured at the end of the film.


Larry Mann (Kevin Spacey) and Phil Cooper (Danny DeVito), who are both experienced marketing representatives working for an industrial lubricants company, attend a trade convention in Wichita in the American Midwest. They are joined in their hospitality suite by Bob Walker (Peter Facinelli), a young man from the company's research department. Larry and Phil are close friends with a long history together. Larry faces urgent financial difficulties that he alludes to only obliquely; Phil has recently come through a recovery program for alcoholism. Bob, an earnest young Baptist, has few if any regrets. Larry explains that their single goal is to arrange a meeting with Dick Fuller, the CEO of a large company ("the Big Kahuna").

While the three wait in their suite waiting for the convention downstairs to finish, Larry and Phil explain to Bob how to develop and discern character. They also make Bob the bartender for the evening even though he doesn't often drink. Larry remarks that as he has quit smoking, Phil has quit drinking and Bob is religious, it makes them "practically Jesus".

Even though he made a poor bartender, Bob spends the evening talking to people. In doing so, he inadvertently chats with the Big Kahuna, who invites over to a private party at another hotel. Larry and Phil excitedly coach Bob through their pitch on industrial lubricants down to an amount of information Bob can handle and supply him with their business cards.

As the pair wait for Bob, they reflect on the nature of human life. However, Bob returns to drop a bombshell: he used the time to discuss religion rather than pitch the company's product. Larry is dumbfounded and leaves the room devastated. Phil explains to Bob that proselytizing is just another kind of sales pitch. He explains that making real human-to-human contact requires honesty and a genuine interest in other people. Phil gives his reason why Larry and him have a friendship, because of trust. He also tells Bob that until he recognises things he should regret he won't grow in character.

"I'm saying you've already done plenty of things to regret, you just don't know what they are. It's when you discover them, when you see the folly in something you've done, and you wish that you had it do over, but you know you can't, because it's too late. So you pick that thing up, and carry it with you to remind you that life goes on, the world will spin without you, you really don't matter in the end. Then you will gain character, because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself across your face." - Phil Cooper

The next morning Phil packs his things. As Larry check out, he sees Bob talking again to the "Big Kahuna" in the lobby. They exchange a knowing smile suggesting Bob is using his time with the Big Kahuna more judiciously.



The Big Kahuna garnered a generally positive critical reception while earning modest returns at the box office. The film currently holds a 74% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Wonderful adaptation of the stage play."[2] The film received a 56/100 "mixed or average reviews" on Metacritic.[3]


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