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What's the Worst that Could Happen?
(May 31/01)

Oddly enough, even though the marketing campaign for What's the Worst that Could Happen? hinges on the popularity of Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito, the real reason to see the film appears in the form of a supporting character.

Lawrence stars as a career thief that's recently fallen in love. His new significant other has just given him a ring, which he now considers lucky. During the course of a routine robbery, though, he encounters DeVito, who manages to steal said ring. The remainder of the film follows their attempts to outsmart each other and hold onto the supposed mystical ring.

The first half of What's the Worst that could Happen? is surprisingly tame and pedestrian, with few laughs and even fewer unexpected occurrences (since the trailer has seen fit to divulge most of the first act's plot). But around the 45 minute mark, a funny thing happens: The movie throws all logic and common sense out the window and essentially becomes a cartoon. This is most apparent in the guise of a detective that emerges, as played by William Fichtner. Sporting an entirely over-the-top suit (complete with a wide-brimmed hat and cane), this character seems as though he belongs in an altogether different movie. But it's also this character that finally elicits laughs, as absurd as he is.

Lawrence and DeVito are good, but these are essentially the same characters they're always playing: The bitter rich guy and the smooth con-man. And the story, based on the novel by acclaimed crime novelist Donald Westlake, seems as though it was initially played straight in the book, with the jokes added once Lawrence joined the cast.

What's the Worst that Could Happen? takes a while to get going, but once it does, it's surprisingly effective, just as long as you appreciate it for what it morphs into - a no-holds-barred wacky comedy.

out of