Bad-Faves: What's the Worst That Could Happen?

What’s the worst that could come from Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito?

 Sad Martin Lawrence (MGM)

Sad Martin Lawrence (MGM)

It feels like there were a tonne of films in the 90s and early 00s that opened with R&B songs over the credits, like Craig Mack’s “Wooden Horse”. Maybe that’s just a feeling, all of them belonging to the same genre of forgetful films, such as this 2001 caper What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

Martin Lawrence plays Kevin Caffrey, a seasoned thief scouting his next loot at a lucrative Boston auction. It starts off with one of the comedian’s trademark “wtf?” faces as a staffer starts to bother him, to which he replies he’s only there to see “all the colourful pictures” for sale. One of them is being reluctantly sold by Amber (Carmen Ejogo) and Kevin wants to console her.

Over coffee later, he explains his tic to her, where he begins to uncontrollably blink when attempting to lie. That same night, he visits her hotel room with the painting she just sold, receiving a nonchalant reaction after he flatly admits to stealing it for her. But don’t worry, Amber thanks him and doubles down by giving him HER FATHER’S LUCKY RING. All within 24 hours of meeting this chap. Blimey…

This allows the film to quickly create its plot, as Kevin and thief-friend-colleague Berger (John Leguizamo) attempt to rob the house of business tycoon Max Fairbanks (Danny DeVito). However, Berger escapes after Kevin is caught, allowing Max to call the cops and subsequently snatch Kevin’s new promise ring. This starts a back and forth between the two, with Kevin trying to screw Max over and over again through theft, and Max refusing to return the crappy black and gold ring.

Don’t become blinded by Lawrence and DeVito headlining this film, as there’s a comprehensive list of capable players here. And I don’t think anyone puts in a bad effort. Bernie Mac plays Lawrence’s uncle which is pretty confusing given their slim age difference, but Mac does have the honour of lighting the film’s first cigar. He dismisses his nephew’s explanation for his new girlfriend, being able to “simply talk” and connect with her. Hello toxic masculinity! Which is also exacerbated thanks to Berger’s sexual harassment of Amber. Ironically, he later boasts of the new leather gloves he purchases for himself and Kevin. They must have delicate skin care routines.

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I still like the film even though it’s filled with bad jokes. For example, when Berger asks Kevin if he ever reads the newspapers, he responds, “I used to but the news kept changing”. Yawn. Don’t worry, there’s an offensive imitation of strange Arabs by Lawrence and Leguizamo later. But the star of the film arrives at the halfway point with William Fichtner. He’s Alex Tardio, a flamboyant, gay detective following Max’s shady bankruptcy filings. By playing the role completely seriously, he becomes a brilliant highlight.

The problem lies with the docile script and a shitty ring being what drives this whole feud. Everyone seems petty, apart from the female characters who come across as the only sane people here. What I’m struggling to understand is how in the holy heck did this film cost $60m? Was it spent on set decoration and sunglasses? Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning the Shape of Water was under $20m (in 2017 money) by comparison. The only positive I can gather is that WTWTCH? introduced me to the word “perturbed”, something I wish featured more in everyday conversation. Never mind. I'll remain perturbed by how much potential this film originally had.