The Big Kahuna (film)

The Big Kahuna is a 1999 American business comedy-drama film directed by John Swanbeck, and produced by Kevin Spacey, who also starred in the lead role. The film is adapted from the 1992 play Hospitality Suite, written by Roger Rueff, who also wrote the screenplay. John Swanbeck makes few attempts to lessen this film's resemblance to a stage performance: the majority of the film takes place in a single hotel room, and nearly every single line of dialogue is spoken by one of the three actors. The famous 1997 essay Wear Sunscreen is featured at the end of the film.

The Big Kahuna
The Big Kahuna DVD cover.jpg
UK DVD front cover
Directed byJohn Swanbeck
Produced byElie Samaha
Kevin Spacey
Andrew Stevens
Screenplay byRoger Rueff
Based onHospitality Suite
by Roger Rueff
Music byChristopher Young
CinematographyAnastas N. Michos
Edited byPeggy Davis
Distributed byLions Gate Films
Release date
  • September 16, 1999 (1999-09-16) (TIFF)
  • April 28, 2000 (2000-04-28) (limited)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7 million[1]
Box office$3,728,888[1]


Larry Mann (Kevin Spacey) and Phil Cooper (Danny DeVito), who are both experienced marketing representatives working for an industrial lubricants company, attend a trade convention in Wichita, Kansas, in the American Midwest. They are joined in their hospitality suite by Bob Walker (Peter Facinelli), a young man from the company's research department. Larry and Phil are close friends with a long history together. Larry faces urgent financial difficulties that he alludes to only obliquely; Phil has recently come through a recovery program for alcoholism. Bob, an earnest young Baptist, has few if any regrets. Larry explains that their single goal is to arrange a meeting with Dick Fuller, the CEO of a large company ("the Big Kahuna").

While the three wait in their suite for the convention downstairs to finish, Larry and Phil explain to Bob how to develop and discern character. They also make Bob the bartender for the evening even though he drinks infrequently. Larry remarks that as he has quit smoking, Phil has quit drinking and Bob is religious, it makes them "practically Jesus".

Even though he makes a poor bartender, Bob spends the evening talking to people. In doing so, he inadvertently chats with the Big Kahuna, who invites him over to a private party at another hotel. Larry and Phil excitedly coach Bob through their pitch on industrial lubricants down to an amount of information Bob can handle and supply him with their business cards.

As the pair wait for Bob, they reflect on the nature of human life. However, Bob returns to drop a bombshell: he used the time to discuss religion rather than pitch the company's product. Larry, dumbfounded, challenges Bob and leaves the room devastated. Phil explains to Bob that proselytizing is just another kind of sales pitch. He explains that making real human-to-human contact requires honesty and a genuine interest in other people. Phil gives his reason why he and Larry have a friendship: trust. He then tells Bob that until he can recognize what he should regret, he will not grow in character.

The next morning Phil packs his things. As Larry checks out, he sees Bob talking again to the "Big Kahuna" in the lobby. They exchange a knowing smile as Bob appears to continue to push his own agenda of preaching God instead of selling lubricants. The soundtrack during the credits is "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)", a setting of an essay by Mary Schmich.[2]



The Big Kahuna garnered a generally positive critical reception while earning modest returns at the box office. The film currently holds a 74% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Wonderful adaptation of the stage play."[3] The film received a 56/100 "mixed or average reviews" on Metacritic.[4]


  1. ^ a b The Big Kahuna at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Boyar, Jay (May 19, 2000). "'Kahuna' Goes Over In A Big Way". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  3. ^ The Big Kahuna at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ The Big Kahuna at Metacritic

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