Anthony's Film Review

Trial and Error (1997)

Trial and Error is a decent courtroom comedy...

Trial and Error was released in theaters just as the television sitcom Seinfeld was coming to an end. If you've watched that show, then you know about Michael Richards, the actor who plays Jerry Seinfeld's wacky neighbor named Cosmo Kramer. As much as I love Jerry, George, and Elaine, it's Kramer who really makes me chuckle. So when I heard about a comedy called Trial and Error starring Michael Richards, particularly when he might play another goofball character, I made a mental note to check it out.

In the movie, Richards's character is not as silly as Cosmo Kramer, but I still found the premise to be funny. Basically, he plays an actor named Richard Rietti, whose friend, a lawyer named Charles Tuttle, played by Jeff Daniels, has a problem. Tuttle has a court case coming up, but he gets drunk before the big day. Also, he gets beaten up at a bar after admitting he's a lawyer. So what do they do? They trade places. Rietti pretends to be Tuttle the lawyer with the real Tuttle providing guidance in the courtroom.

The humor of this movie comes from both the idea for the plot and how the characters react to error during the trial. A lot of the jokes involve making verbal objections. Rietti and Tuttle devise funny ways to signal when Rietti should say "objection" as well as the reason for it. For example, Tuttle is in the courtroom next to Rietti with cue cards that state various reasons to object. It gets complicated when Tuttle ends up being booted out of court. The funniest part of the movie involves a method to signal objection to Rietti with Tuttle outside the courthouse: an ingenious use of Morse code, which, unfortunately, can still go wrong (with hilarious results).

Other than these funny scenes, the movie is really just OK overall. There are also appearances by actors Rip Torn and Charlize Theron, and their performances aren't too bad. But the story only goes so far. It's as if they got enough jokes to make it a comedy, but not enough to make it one of the funniest comedies ever. As a result, I would lose some enthusiasm from the movie during its quieter moments, because I really wanted to see the movie for the courtroom jokes.

Once again, I think Michael Richards's popularity from the TV show Seinfeld was the reason why this movie came out when it did. Also note the film's tagline on the poster: "The 2nd Most Outrageous Trial of the Century." So the movie also came out when the O.J. Simpson trial might still be fresh in people's minds. But anyway, I digress. Trial and Error has just enough humor to rent or somehow watch for free. Though it could be a lot funnier, I enjoyed the jokes they did come up with. The filmmakers have done the best they could with what they had.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Trial and Error, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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