What's the Worst That Could Happen?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
What's the Worst That Could Happen?
Theatrical film poster
Directed bySam Weisman
Screenplay byMatthew Chapman
Based onWhat's the Worst That Could Happen?
by Donald E. Westlake
Produced byLawrence Turman
David Hoberman
Ashok Amritraj
Wendy Dytman
StarringMartin Lawrence
Danny DeVito
CinematographyAnastas N. Michols
Edited byGarth Craven
Nick Moore
Music byTyler Bates
Distributed byMGM Distribution Co. (United States)
20th Century Fox (International)[1]
Release date
  • June 1, 2001 (2001-06-01)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$60 million
Box office$38.4 million

What's the Worst That Could Happen? is a 2001 comedy film directed by Sam Weisman and starring Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito. Loosely based on a book by Donald E. Westlake, the film follows the misadventures of a skilled thief and a wealthy businessman facing financial trouble. Despite its promising premise and notable actors, the film did not meet expectations and performed poorly commercially.

Upon its release in June 2001, What's the Worst That Could Happen? struggled to connect with audiences, earning only $38.4 million worldwide against its $60 million budget. Critics also gave it a lukewarm response, with a meager 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was criticized for its uninspiring script and lack of funny gags, leaving the talented cast underutilized. Reviewers like Roger Ebert and Lisa Schwarzbaum pointed out flaws in the film's character development, plot, and the mismatched acting styles of its stars.


Kevin Caffrey, a skilled thief, meets Amber Belhaven, who is auctioning her father's painting to settle a hotel bill. He discovers her hotel room and surprises her by returning the stolen painting. Kevin reveals his criminal activities to Amber, shocking her at first, but she accepts it in order to be with him. She eventually gives Kevin her father's lucky ring.

Meanwhile, Max Fairbanks, a wealthy businessman facing bankruptcy, seeks legal advice from his lawyer, Walter Greenbaum. Max, known for his extravagant spending, disregards the seriousness of the situation. He keeps spending and suggests declaring bankruptcy immediately to protect his assets. Max tells his wife, Lutetia, that his company is going through a technical procedure to hide the truth.

Through a friend named Berger, Kevin learns about Max's financial troubles. Berger informs him about Max's beachfront mansion, which Kevin sees as an opportunity. They plan to rob Max's house but end up getting caught. Max recognizes Amber's stolen ring and forces Kevin to hand it over to the police. Kevin escapes and returns to the house later, seeking revenge. He robs Max's valuables and one of his cars, telling Amber that the ring was stolen from him.

Walter informs Max that he is banned from his summer house due to breaching the bankruptcy terms. Max remains confident, believing the ring brings him luck. Kevin and Berger hire a hacker named Shelly Nix to track Max's whereabouts by hacking into his email. During a flight, Max consults his psychic associate, Gloria, about the ring. Gloria draws a disturbing card but keeps it a secret.

Max insults a judge he believed he bribed to save his house, leading to an order for its public auction. As the crooks continue to rob Max's properties, Max meets with Detective Alex Tardio and contacts his head of security, Earl Redburn.

Shelly informs Kevin that Max is heading to Washington, D.C. for a Senate hearing. Kevin learns that Max plans to bribe the senators and decides to replace the bribe money with insulting notes in Max's name. Max and Earl discover Kevin's presence in the apartment and a scuffle ensues. Kevin tries to steal the ring but ends up taking Max's wedding ring instead. Amber realizes the feud has gone too far and breaks up with Kevin, no longer caring about the ring.

Lutetia finds Amber wearing a stolen jacket at Jack's bar and confronts her. They realize they share a common situation and devise a plan. Gloria, concerned about Max, admits the gravity of the card she drew and quits as his associate. She provides Max's company records to Detective Tardio.

At the bankruptcy auction, Lutetia sends Max a masseuse as a distraction and steals the ring. The crooks, led by Kevin, steal as much as they can and escape, creating chaos with smoke bombs and a fake video message. Max confronts Kevin on a sinking boat, realizing the ring is a fake. They are discovered by Detective Tardio, and Kevin pretends to save Max. Kevin thanks Max, and Amber reveals herself as the masseuse who stole the ring. She advises Kevin to throw it away due to its bad luck. Kevin agrees, discards the ring, and reunites with Amber.

Pretending to be Max's lawyer, Kevin manipulates the Senate hearing in Max's favor, appearing victorious in the press conference. Kevin steals one of Max's watches as they part ways.



Critical reception[edit]

What's the Worst That Could Happen? currently holds a 10% "rotten" rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 99 reviews, with an average rating of 3.5/10, and the site's consensus stating: "Talented cast is squandered by an uninvolving script filled with unfunny gags."[2] Another review aggregation website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 from top mainstream critics, calculated a score of 37 based on 28 reviews.[3]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film an unfavorable review, stating that there were "too many characters, not enough plot, and a disconnect between the two stars' acting styles". Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly also gave the film a negative review and said, "Maybe the worst thing that can happen is that every other movie at the multiplex will be sold out this weekend."[4]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times gave a mixed review and said, "Laborious in the unfolding of its plot, and under Sam Weisman's brash direction the unbashed amorality of the material is crass rather than sly in tone".

However, some positive reviews came from Chris Kattenbach of the Baltimore Sun and Mike Clark of USA Today.

Box office performance[edit]

The film had $13,049,114 during its opening weekend, and ranked #5 at the box office. It was released in 2,675 theaters, and grossed $4,878 average. At the end of its theatrical run, What's the Worst That Could Happen? has grossed $32,269,834 in the domestic market along with $6,194,297 in the foreign market for a worldwide total of $38,464,131. Therefore, the film was a box office flop, failing to recover its $60 million budget.


A soundtrack containing hip hop and R&B music was released on May 29, 2001 by Interscope Records. It peaked at 38 on the Billboard 200 and 6 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

Marc Shaiman, who wrote the score, told Playbill magazine that the "worst job" he ever had was "scoring a hideous movie called What's the Worst That Could Happen? I'm not kidding."[5]


  1. ^ "What's the Worst That Could Happen? (2001)". BBFC. Retrieved 23 June 2021.
  2. ^ "What's the Worst That Could Happen?-Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 22, 2022
  3. ^ "What's the Worst That Could Happen? Reviews-Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved February 28, 2015
  4. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (May 30, 2001). "What's the Worst That Could Happen?". EW.com.
  5. ^ Hernandez, Ernio (13 Dec 2006). "PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Marc Shaiman". Playbill. Retrieved October 26, 2012.

External links[edit]