The Big Kahuna
Directed by John Swanbeck
Lions Gate Films/Universal
The Big Kahuna playfully engages the mind in the moral quest of the three souls who have speaking parts: two worldly marketing reps and their otherworldly research technician, an earnest young man of evangelical conviction. The Big Kahuna had typically brief runs in arthouse cinemas earlier this year, and is now available on video.
The two salesmen hope to reel in a big account by cornering a corporate VIP (the big kahuna) at a convention in Wichita, Kansas. The natural fissures among the trio begin to show when the callow researcher's religious zeal impedes their efforts.
The drama of ideas—chiefly integrity, and what it means to be fully human—quickly follows. It is enfleshed in the conflict between the glib and acid wit of Larry (Kevin Spacey) and the certainty of faith in the otherwise uncertain Bob (played expertly by the up-and-coming Peter Facinelli of Supernova and Can't Hardly Wait). The older, shopworn Phil (Danny DeVito) tries wanly to arbitrate the inexorable conflict with a dark detachment made possible by his general resignation from life. DeVito is unusually haunting in his cloaked expressions of brooding despair.
Mirrors are a consistent leitmotif in this film, which unashamedly smacks of the play it is based on (Roger Rueff's Hospitality Suite). Bob—representing American evangelicals—is challenged to look the hardest at his own reflection.
His evangelizing techniques are likened to the marketing methods oozing throughout the convention; thus evangelicals presumably are taken to task for selling Jesus just as Larry and Phil hope to sell industrial lubricants.
The parallel not only raises questions about evangelicals' motives and methods but also ...1