H.I. ("Hi") McDonough, played with an earnest romanticism by Nicolas Cage, is a classic Coen protagonist. He means well, even if he can't get his master plan to quite come together (this is a man of dreams, forced into the life of a small-time hood by trickle-down economics), and he is prone to speaking in fits of poetry that often go awry ("There's what's right and there's what's right, and never the twain shall meet"). In one of the most inspired courtings ever to be put on film, Hi woos and wins Police Officer Edwina ("Ed"), played by Holly Hunter in a career-defining role, while being booked on numerous occasions.
Denied the joys of parenthood by Ed's infertile womb ("a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase") and Hi's criminal past - Ed's police service doesn't quite "cancel out" Hi's record like they had hoped -- Hi and Ed can't really enjoy their "salad days" in their trailer in the Arizona desert. That is, until the Arizona Quints are born to unpainted furniture magnate Nathan Arizona. Deciding that old Nathan and his wife have more kids than they could handle, Ed and Hi decide to kidnap one of the little nippers. In a scene that parodies "Jaws," Hi snags Nathan Jr., and Ed and Hi are parents.
Unfortunately, Hi's criminal past catches up wtih him as Gale (John Goodman) and Evelle (William Forsythe) break out of prison and hide out with Hi at the family trailer. Soon they are on to Hi's kidnapping, and they decide to pursue their own agenda. Unfortunately for all concerned, bounty hunter Leonard Smalls is on the hunt for the kidnapped youngster, too -- and a nasty bloodhound from hell he is, too. Surely casting "Tex" Cobb in this part is one of the most inspired bits of casting ever!
The movie is chock full of surprises, from the chase scenes involving what seems like ten packs of hounds and more gunfire than one could possibly imagine, to a fight in the trailer that won't be topped until "Kill Bill, Vol. 2," and an over-the-top cameo performance by Frances MacDormand as a nosy neighbor with a fondness for bibical names and a trove of baby advice. The dialogue is rich, filled with comic inspiration and a touching devotion to family. And, like most Coen brothers movies, things generally turn out all right for our heroes, they definitely don't wind up the way they planned.
For fans of the Coens, off-beat comedies, Nic Cage and Holly Hunter (which should describe an awful lot of folks), this is a heck of a film.