One weekend during the summer of 2008 when my wife and I were just getting to know each other, she was feeling a little down and she wanted me to bring over a movie to cheer her up. The order was for nothing too serious, but nothing too sweet and silly either. “Maybe something from the 80s?” she suggested. Good suggestion on her part–that’s a decade with no shortage of fun but frivolous movies. After digging through my DVD shelf, I hit on Big Trouble in Little China as the perfect solution for a not-too-serious Sunday distraction.
We watched it and she loved it (at least until Jack and company stormed the palace at the end, by which point she had fallen asleep with her feet in my lap.) But she missed two of my favorite moments–the one where Jack shoots a hole in the ceiling and knocks himself out, and the other where Wang engages in a gravity-defying sword fight. I knew that we’d have to watch it again some day so that she could fully appreciate the brilliant ending, I just didn’t know that the next time we’d see it again would be at our wedding.
We had our wedding at the Plaza Theater
and one of the bonuses to that venue was that we could screen a movie–anything we wanted that the theater could secure. I knew that there were prints of these kinds of movies floating around, but I didn’t realize it was quite that easy for theaters to book them. When we decided on the Plaza, we had to pick a film and the first thing that came to mind was Big Trouble
. It was silly, it had some memorable lines, it was old enough that people would appreciate the kitsch, and at the center of the whole thing was a wedding! OK, so it was an unholy marriage of Lo Pan and some kidnapped women to appease an ancient demon, but it was still a wedding! I ran it by Leigh and she loved the idea so we were set.
Big Trouble in Little China remains one of my favorite movies. It’s got such an odd blend of comedy and action and horror that it’s unique even amongst John Carpenter’s other films of the era. The kung fu battles are actually fun. The storms are beautifully designed and brought to life through practical effects, and they factor into the story perfectly. Kurt Russell as Jack Burton is perfect too–he’s a near complete moron who manages to win despite himself. He’s a laughable hero who’s always struck me as a cockier version of Inspector Gadget. Everyone knows that Penny and Brain do all the work but Gadget still gets credit for solving the crimes. Russell is a lot of fun to watch and while he makes Burton into a cartoon, almost all of his comrades seem to be playing the movie straight. Kim Cattral is so bad that she turns her scenes of expository dialogue into some of the funniest parts of the movie. Out of nowhere, the movie throws things like the floating eyeball and the underground sasquatch at the audience and no one ever questions any of it. It’s full of amazingly cheesy moments and goofy scenes, but somehow it all congeals.
I got to see They Live at the Plaza the same week as our wedding, and while I love the ideas in that film, I recognize that it’s a pacing nightmare. People like to talk about the eight minute alley brawl, but what about the twenty or thirty minutes that it takes Nada to even figure out what is going on? I saw The Thing at the Plaza about a year ago, and while I loved it too, it’s a little more heavily reliant on the scares and the creature effects, so it’s not so appropriate for a wedding audience–at least not our wedding audience. Big Trouble in Little China with its irreverant humor, iconic vilian, slapstick action, and two green-eyed brides was just perfect.
We enjoyed the movie with our guests who stayed through the reception and Leigh finally got to see the whole thing through the end. We had champagne and fabulous wedding cupcakes, truffle parmesean popcorn from our caterer Chef Courtney, and we had each other and that made the screening the best movie moment of my life. It was a great way to kick off our life together, and a wedding/movie that I don’t think anyone will ever forget–indeed!