A.V. Club Milwaukee | “His ass has gotta be from Wisconsin”: 5 unlikely cinematic nods to the Dairy State


In the 2010 Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie turkey, The Tourist, Depp plays a mild-mannered math teacher from Wisconsin. Why the filmmakers chose Wisconsin as the titular tourist’s home state is never explained—we, like you, haven’t actually seen the movie—and few area math teachers we’ve encountered look a whole lot like Depp. Motivation and logic aside, this is only one of cinema’s many unexpected, out-of-the-blue references to our fair state. For your consideration,The A.V. Club dug through boxes of dusty DVDs and VHS tapes to compile a wildly incomplete list of five more.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The scene: One of the more poignant aspects of Quentin Tarantino’s breakout film—besides the peppy ear mutilation—is the kinship between undercover cop Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) and the unwitting Mr. White (Harvey Keitel). In an early scene (chronologically speaking), Orange informs a fellow officer, Holdaway (Randy Brooks), that he and White have been spending time chatting about the Milwaukee Brewers. Holdaway sees this nugget of information as a big step in discovering Mr. White’s true identity.
The unlikely nod: “So if this fruit’s a Brewers fan, his ass has gotta be from Wisconsin. And I’ll bet you everything from a diddled-eye-Joe to a damned-if-I-know that in Milwaukee they got a sheet on this Mr. White motherfucker’s ass. So what I want you to do is to go through the mugs of all the guys from old Milwaukee with a history of armed robbery. Put a name to the face.”

Flirting With Disaster (1996)
The scene: Near the end of David O. Russell’s gloriously scatterbrained Flirting With Disaster, the adoptive parents of Mel (Ben Stiller) are driving through a darkened countryside in search of their son. As played by veteran comedic ringers George Segal and Mary Tyler Moore, the two are neurotic, kvetching, and constantly at each other’s throat. For reasons far too convoluted to explain, they’re also behind the wheel of a car loaded with sheets of homemade LSD. As the two are being pulled over for an illegal U-turn—an infraction that will lead to a particularly memorable night in jail—Moore takes one last dig at Segal.
The unlikely nod: “What did I just tell you about the U-turns?” “He was in my blind spot.” “You could fit the state of Wisconsin in your blind spot!”

Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
The scene: Milwaukee natives Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, and David Zucker—best known for Airplane! and the Naked Gun series—have always peppered their films with sly references to their home state. But none are more unlikely than the Hot Shots! Part Deux shout-out to Eagle River, a small Northern Wisconsin burg that Abrahams now calls home. During a characteristically silly scene, a slightly unhinged Marine named Rabinowitz (Ryan Stiles) bares his soul to hero Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen).
The unlikely nod: “Know what I’m gonna do if we make it? I’m gonna go back to Eagle River and marry my gal, Edith Mae. Gonna get us a nice little place with a white picket fence. You know the kind—two-car garage, maybe a fishing boat. And in 15 years, when they’re all paid for…I’ll set my charges and blow the shit out of them.”

Titanic (1997)
The scene: In director James Cameron’s bloated mega-blockbuster, two star-crossed lovers meet cute while aboard the doomed Titanic. But before they can get to the good stuff—nude sketching, steamy car sex, drowning—they need to get some small talk out of the way. In an early scene, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) reveals his modest Wisconsin origins to Rose (Kate Winslet).
The unlikely nod: “Ever been to Wisconsin? Well they have some of the coldest winters around, and I grew up there, near Chippewa Falls. Once, when I was a kid, me and my father were ice fishing out on Lake Wissota.” (Sadly, Jack’s story doesn’t hold water: Construction on the dam that created Lake Wissota began in 1915, three years after the sinking of the Titanic. Nice try, Leo.)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
The scene: Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap is not only an undeniable classic, but it spawned an undeniable Milwaukee institution: The always-contentious Shank Hall would later take its name from the fictional Milwaukee venue in the film. Prior to Tap’s big show at Shank, lead singer David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) receives a phone call from his astrology-obsessed girlfriend, Jeanine (June Chadwick), and attempts to explain the location of the upcoming gig.
The unlikely nod: “Milwaukee.” [Pause.] “Milwaukee, Wisconsin.” [Long pause.] “I have no idea.”