Total Recall: John Goodman's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Monsters University star.
Sitcom star, dependable character actor, occasional leading man -- John Goodman has basked in the glow of a number of different spotlights over the last few decades, carving out a career enviable for its versatility and sheer success as well as entertaining to watch. Whether he's making good use of his expert comic timing or lending dramatic gravitas to a scene, Goodman has become a reliable indicator of quality for whatever project he happens to be involved with -- and this weekend, given that the project in question is Pixar's Monsters University, we figured now would be the perfect time to pay tribute to Mr. Goodman with a look back at his best-reviewed films. All hail King Ralph, it's time for Total Recall!
10. The Big Lebowski
A movie with a cult following so dedicated that it's spawned its own convention (not to mention its own religion), The Big Lebowski's 80 percent Tomatometer has kept it from making the cut in a few Total Recall lists, much to the anguish of its many fans. But this week, the Dude abides, shining a much-deserved spotlight on John Goodman's mesmerizing supporting turn as the violent, gun-toting Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak (the polar opposite of Jeff Bridges' mellow, shaggy, sweater-enrobed Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski). "The Big Lebowski is a mess," admitted James Berardinelli of ReelViews. "But what a glorious, wonderfully-entertaining mess it is."
All things considered, The Emperor's New Groove should be more notable for what went on behind the scenes than anything that actually made it to the screen. With years in development, a director that quit the project, and an entire soundtrack's worth of new songs from Sting that ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor, Disney's 40th animated feature seemed like an epic disaster before it arrived in theaters -- and yet this relatively pedestrian buddy comedy, about a selfish Incan prince (David Spade) who's forced to befriend one of his subjects (Goodman) after being turned into a llama by an evil sorceress (Eartha Kitt), ended up being one of the studio's bigger hits of the post-Lion King, pre-Pixar years. "I admit I feel a little guilty to be praising a production whose aims are so thoroughly modest," winced Joy Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel, "but I laughed all the way through this movie."
Something of a palate cleanser for the Coen brothers after the rich darkness of their previous effort, Blood Simple, 1987's cockeyed comedy Raising Arizona united a motley crew of character actors to tell the tale of a well-meaning ex-con (Nicolas Cage) who hatches a plan with his police officer wife (Holly Hunter) to cure their childless condition by kidnapping a baby from a furniture magnate (Trey Wilson) who publicly jokes that his five infants are more than he knows what to do with. The kidnapping coincides with the unfortunate reappearance of Cage's criminal associates (Goodman and William Forsythe), who complicate the situation with plans of their own -- and then there's the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse (Randall "Tex" Cobb) to contend with. Perhaps less a movie than an artfully assembled compilation of quirks, Arizona quickly ascended to cult classic status; as Time Out's Geoff Andrew enthused, "Starting from a point of delirious excess, the film leaps into dark and virtually uncharted territory to soar like a comet."
Frank Marshall (backed here by his longtime production partner Steven Spielberg) made his directorial debut with this affectionate, cheerfully creepy tribute to classic Hollywood creature features, in which a deadly breed of spider terrorizes a small town whose residents include a lunatic exterminator (John Goodman) and, of course, a doctor with the titular phobia (Jeff Daniels). "That sound you hear in the background is the 'ugh!' heard round the world," chuckled Janet Maslin of the New York Times, adding, "luckily, Arachnophobia will also be generating its share of boisterous, nervous laughter."
6. Barton Fink
Goodman has delivered more than his share of memorable supporting performances, but his work in Barton Fink is near the top of a distinguished list, helping anchor an early Coen brothers picture that uses the uneasy partnership between art and commerce as a backdrop for a surreal drama about sex, lies, and a shotgun-toting traveling salesman (played by Goodman, natch). Calling the end result "Gnomic, claustrophobic, hallucinatory, just plain weird," Time's Richard Schickel lauded it as "the kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through."