Trial and Error (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

Trial and Error (1997)



Critic Consensus: Trial and Error gets some laughs out of the comedic chemistry between its pleasantly mismatched leads, although the results are still somewhat less than memorable.

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.


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
Max Casella
as Dr. Brown
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 C. 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
View All

Critic Reviews for Trial and Error

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (12)

Ever since "Something Wild," Daniels has perfected his gift for looking increasingly beaten down. He's a perfect foil for Richards's wilder shenanigans.

October 25, 2018 | Full Review…

"Trial and Error" is a breezy confection for a summer's day that effectively conjures up a smile.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

If someone wanted to make someone else a star, it's hard to imagine a better route than Lynn takes with Theron, who brings the movie to its knees every time she comes on screen.

February 14, 2001 | Full Review…

Think of it as My Cousin Cosmo.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

The movie reminded me a little of some of Billy Wilder's work in the way he took the characters seriously, or at least as seriously as the material allowed, and got a lot of the laughs by playing scenes straight.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

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

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Trial and Error

considering all the talent this project had to offer its a shame nothing really comes together. the main issues are the mismatched pairing of Richards & Daniels which doesn't work. Richards doesn't really offer the humour he does from Seinfeld which is why this film stayed off everyones rader back on its release. Daniels has proven he is capable of comedy roles but he is unable to inject anything remotely resembling a likable character. Theron is quite good in a thankless role but allows Daniels to share some meaningful screen time with. I really wanted to like this film but it is poorly directed and the jokes miss more then they hit.

Brendan O'Connor
Brendan O'Connor

Super Reviewer


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

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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