Trial and Error (1997)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Up-and-coming L.A. corporate lawyer Charles Tuttle (Jeff Daniels) is going to marry his wealthy boss's beautiful daughter Elizabeth (Alexandra Wentworth), but first he must head to a remote Nevada town to help his employer's rapscallion relative out of a legal bind. It's all routine for Charlie until his bumbling best buddy Richard Rietti (Michael Richards), a cut-rate actor, decides to throw him a surprise bachelor party in the desert. Richard means well and throws one enormous bash. Unfortunately, Charlie gets totally plastered during the party and the next day is too hung-over to move, let alone go to court. Richard volunteers to go in Charlie's stead and ask for a continuance -- after all, he is an actor. What could go wrong? Unfortunately everything, for both the local District Attorney and the judge refuse to delay the trial. Both are anxious to put long-time con man Billy Gibbs (Rip Torn) away for good. Since they think Richard is Charlie, the actor and the lawyer have no choice but to maintain the status quo and hope that no one discovers their ruse. Charlie does his best to teach Richard the legal ropes, but it is an uphill battle all the way. Along the way, Charlie meets an earthy local girl, Billie Tyler (Charlize Theron) who forces him to reevaluate his life. Essentially a fish-out-of-water comedy, the film attempts to strike a few more serious underlying notes along the way. The film is the first in which television character actor Michael Richards, best known for his hilarious portrayal of 'Kramer' on the sitcom Seinfeld, receives top billing.
PG-13 (adult situations/language)
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
New Line Home Entertainment


Michael Richards
as Richard Rietti
Jeff Daniels
as Charles Tuttle
Charlize Theron
as Billie Taylor
Jessica Steen
as Elizabeth Gardner
Austin Pendleton
as Judge Paul Z. Graff
Rip Torn
as Benny Gibbs
Dale Dye
as Dr. Stone
Jennifer Coolidge
as Jacqueline
Max Casella
as Dr. Brown
Lawrence Pressman
as Whitfield
McNally Sagal
as Charles' Assistant
Kenneth White
as Hank Crabbit
Keith Mills
as Buck Norman
Zaid Farid
as Bailiff
Rachel Winfree
as Mrs. Sussex
Ken Magee
as Clerk
Michelle Bonilla
as Court Reporter
Paul Joseph Dworkin
as 1st Bartender
John Bigham
as 2nd Bartender
Jim Cody Williams
as Heavy Lowlife
Kurek Ashley
as Tattooed Lowlife
Jodi Faith Cahn
as Elizabeth's Secretary
Brian Mahoney
as Man in Bar
Gerry Spence
as Himself
Norman Brennar
as Courtroom Janitor
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Critic Reviews for Trial and Error

All Critics (30) | Top Critics (6)

There are chuckles to be had, but get your own continuance by waiting for the video.

December 31, 1999
USA Today
Top Critic

Something is surely amiss when the trial antics are the least interesting aspect of a courtroom comedy,

Full Review… | October 13, 2005

Lynn's attempt to replicate the courtroom zaniness of My Cousin Vinny is a humorless pie-in-the-face.

July 10, 2003

A hilarious comedy with delicious comic bits on lawyers, juries and experts.

Full Review… | August 30, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

A nicely balanced blend of zany comedy and touching romance.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999

Quote not available.

September 21, 2005

Audience Reviews for Trial and Error


Okay comedy with a witty title. Jeff Daniels and Michael Richards make a good mismatched-buddy team, and to his credit after the first 15 minutes Richards manages to inhabit his character without too many reminders of Kramer. Charlize Theron is very winning in an early supporting role as Daniels' love interest. Seems they forgot this was a comedy after an hour, instead adding an ill-advised romance between Richards and Jessica Steen who actually provides a worthy adversary. Final verdict: with plenty of opportunities for satire or slapstick available, it should have been funnier.

Doctor Strangeblog
Doctor Strangeblog

Super Reviewer


A nice comedy romance movie. If you liked Michael Richards character Kramer on Steinfeld, you will love this movie. It is essentially 2 hours of Kramer. An actor (Richards) ends-up in a legal trial as a lawyer. It is worth watching.

Jim Gateley
Jim Gateley

Director Jonathan Lynn makes another courtroom delight, following the success of My Cousin Vinny. Michael Richards delivers the expected Dramer-esque slapstick he became famous for on TV's Seinfeld, but then allows his character a more serious and rational side.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

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