[Screen It]


(1997) (Michael Richards, Jeff Daniels) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Mild Moderate None Mild
Mild None None None Moderate
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild to Mod. Minor None Minor Mild

Comedy: An unemployed actor must act like a defense attorney after a bachelor party leaves his best friend unable to proceed with a court case.
Charlie Tuttle (JEFF DANIELS) is an up and coming defense attorney. Having just been named an associate partner and preparing for his quickly approaching marriage to Tiffany (ALEXANDRA WENTWORTH), the rich and beautiful daughter of the firm's owner, things couldn't look better for Charlie. In addition, his best friend, Richard Rietti (MICHAEL RICHARDS), an unemployed actor, is throwing a bachelor party for him, but a pending court case in a small desert town calls Charlie away for the evening. Undeterred, Richard takes the party to him, and the next morning Charlie is too incapacitated to go on with the case. Thinking he's only asking for a continuance of the case, Richard steps in and poses as Charlie. He is surprised, however, when the prosecutor, Elizabeth Gardner (JESSICA STEEN) objects and the case begins. Richard suddenly finds himself having to defend Benny Gibbs (RIP TORN), a mail order con artist and family relative of Tiffany's. As Richard proceeds, Charlie takes on Richard's identity and meets the town's free spirit, Billie (CHARLIZE THERON), the local waitress, and begins to rethink his life. As Charlie and Billie begin to fall for each other, Richard begins to fall for Elizabeth, and the court case becomes even more complicated, much to the chagrin of Judge Graff (AUSTIN PENDLETON) who is shocked at Richard's unorthodox courtroom behavior.
Richards (Kramer on TVís "Seinfeld") and/or Daniels ("Dumb and Dumber") may just draw many kids to this film.
For some sexual content.
  • MICHAEL RICHARDS plays an actor who poses as his lawyer friend to get him off the hook, but then finds himself in a growing lie that he can't get out of.
  • JEFF DANIELS plays a straight-laced lawyer whose life is turned around when he meets a woman whom he eventually sleeps with, although he's still engaged to another woman.
  • CHARLIZE THERON plays the town free-spirit who eventually sleeps with Charlie.
  • RIP TORN plays a con artist who's been ripping off people for decades.
  • JESSICA STEEN plays a prosecutor who must endure Richard's courtroom antics.


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    Although neither a great movie nor a great comedy, "Trial and Error" is the type of film that slowly wins you over. I didn't expect the movie would be very good (or good at all) since it appeared to be yet another cookie-cutter vehicle for another big star -- this time around, Richards who plays Kramer on TV's "Seinfeld." While Richards has yet to prove he can stretch his acting wings -- and this film certainly doesn't provide him with much of an opportunity -- it is nice to see that he's not simply recreating his small screen role for the big screen. Sure, there's some of his zany physical comedy, including a hilarious bit of being roughed up by an invisible assailant during an audition, but there's enough of a difference in his performance that he won't forever be typecast as Kramer. Daniels gets to play the comically befuddled straight man and does an okay job. Theron and Steen are also decent in their roles, but we wish that Rip Torn had a little more material with which to work. He's a brilliant character actor, and while he's got some funny lines here and there, his role seems rather repressed when compared to roles he's inhabited in the past. Again, this is by no means a sophisticated comedy, but somewhere in the middle of the plot it begins to work its charm on the audience and you begin to really enjoy the story and the characters. Of course it's predictable and there's some way over-the-top overacting (especially Pendelton as the exasperated judge), but all of that adds bit by bit to the film's charm. If you see this movie with lowered expectations (or better yet, none at all), you'll probably end up liking this film or at least be amused by it. We were, and we give this production a 6 out of 10.
    This film is relatively tame for a PG-13 rating when compared to many other similarly rated movies. The most probable objectionable material falls into the "Sex/Nudity" category and includes some sexual talk, a blow-up sex doll (seen but not used), and a scantily clad woman in some lingerie who's ready for some "action." The worst of the profanity is 7 "s" words, and while Charlie gets rather drunk, the scenes of him getting that way aren't too bad. There is the issue of lying in the courtroom and assuming someone else's identity, along with a scene where shooting old toilets with a shotgun is seen as therapy. Beyond that, however, much of the material is rather mild, especially considering the rating. Still, you should examine the content to make sure that this film is appropriate for you and/or your children.

  • Several guys drink beer at a bachelor party, and later they, Charlie and Richard drink in a bar. They order shots and the waitress offers to get Charlie a "Paradise Manhattan." No one knows how to make that drink (since it doesn't exist), so Billy pours all sorts of liquor together and Charlie has at least two of these drinks. After a while, some of them men, including Charlie, are rather drunk.
  • During the trial there are a few comparisons to Benny's made-up chemical dependance on sweets to that of morphine and cocaine (but no drugs or drug use are seen at any time).
  • Elizabeth has a small glass of wine in a bar, and later she and Richard have drinks together (beer and shots).
  • Richard walks out to Charlie carrying a bottle of bourbon and Dr. Pepper, takes a swig, and then passes it to Charlie who does the same.
  • We hear the sound of Charlie repeatedly throwing up (the day after his drinking) in the desert.
  • Charlie's nose bleeds (after falling through the courtroom ceiling) and a stream of blood runs down to his chin.
  • Benny is a con artist who for years practiced mail order fraud.
  • The defense makes up a lie about Benny being chemically dependant on sweets to try to convince the jury that he's not guilty as charged.
  • Charlie tells Richard, "You don't have the equipment for this," suggesting that Richard isn't smart enough to continue with the court case.
  • Tiffany is a rich, spoiled snob, and condescendingly talks to Billy in one scene.
  • Although Charlie isn't happy about being engaged to Tiffany, he does sleep with Billy while still engaged to Tiffany.
  • None.
  • Shotgun: Used by Billy and then Charlie to shoot old toilets and other objects in a junk yard.
  • Phrases: "Screw the...", "Screw this up," "Bitch" (toward a woman), and "Screwed" (non sexual).
  • Both Richard and Charlie impersonate each other.
  • Richard violently throws his body around a stage (during an acting audition) as if he's being punched and kicked by an invisible assailant.
  • In his drunken stupor, Charlie takes a whole bottle of pills (over a one night period) that worsens his condition, but doesn't kill him.
  • Billy and Charlie use a shotgun to shoot old toilets and other objects in a junk yard. She tells him it's therapeutic, and he soon agrees as he blasts away with the shotgun.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • 1 use of "freakin" (instead of the "f" word), 7 "s" words, 8 "ass" words (5 used with "hole"), 6 hells, 2 damns, 1 S.O.B., and 4 uses of "Oh God," 2 uses of "God," and 1 use each of "G-damn," "Christ," "Jesus," "Oh my God," and "Holy God" as exclamations.
  • Richard and his acting buddies have shown up for Charlie's bachelor party, and one of them is carrying a full-sized blow-up sex doll (complete with an open mouth).
  • Richard, not knowing he's talking to Elizabeth, tries to pick her up at a bar. He says, "Sometimes I think intercourse is overrated, because I'm a hugger. I can hug and kiss all day long."
  • Richard refers to a young-looking psychiatrist as "walking around with a melvin and a zit on his nose." "Melvin" may be a slang reference for an erection.
  • Charlie glances over at Billy as she drives her jeep and notices her high cut shorts that show part of the bare side of her butt.
  • Charlie and Billy passionately kiss (played for laughs) and later are seen in bed together -- she just covered in a sheet -- implying that they had sex.
  • Richard tells Elizabeth, "I've got a big office, a big car, and a big...(pause)...I'm big."
  • Tiffany comes out of the bedroom wearing a small two-piece teddy and garters and implies that she wants to have sex with Charlie (while grabbing his butt and pulling him up close to her).
  • As Richard sits behind Elizabeth on her motorcycle with his arms are around her, she comments on where his hands are. He replies, "What am I supposed to hold on to?" She responds, "Not that."
  • Billy smokes a cigarette while on a break in a restaurant.
  • Benny smokes a cigar.
  • A woman on the street smokes a cigarette.
  • None.
  • Assuming someone else's identity.
  • Courtroom tactics, which in this case includes lying.
  • Two guys start to get into a fight over who won money on a slot machine. Charlie, who's drunk, tries to intervene, but the two men simultaneously punch him twice after they learn that he's a lawyer (played for laughs).
  • Charlie falls from the air duct he's hiding in, through the ceiling, and down into the courtroom, hurting himself and smashing a table to the floor.
  • Billy and Charlie use a shotgun to shoot old toilets and other objects in a junk yard.
  • Tiffany hits Charlie with his belongings that she pulls from her car trunk.

  • Reviewed May 27, 1997

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