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  Dunston Checks In King Of The Comedy Swingers
Year: 1996
Director: Ken Kwapis
Stars: Jason Alexander, Faye Dunaway, Eric Lloyd, Rupert Everett, Graham Sack, Paul Reubens, Glenn Shadix, Nathan Davis, Jennifer Bassey, Judith Scott, Bruce Beatty, Danny Comden, Steven Gilborn, Lois De Banzie, Natalie Core, Michelle Bonilla
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Robert Grant (Jason Alexander) is the manager of a posh New York hotel called The Majestic, but since his wife died he has had to look after his two sons by himself, and they can be unruly at times. Times like today, when they arrange a prank on one of the staff who they don't like, which goes wrong when a bunch of guests end up falling in the fountain and young Kyle (Eric Lloyd) and the older Brian (Graham Sack) have to flee. Their father knows that it was they who were behind the embarrassment, and seeing as how his boss, Mrs Dubrow (Faye Dunaway) is visiting, he has no choice but to ground them. And then Dunston checks in...

Well, actually, Dunston does not check in because he is smuggled in thanks to the crooked Lord Rutledge (Rupert Everett sporting comedy teeth) who has trained him as a jewel thief. And what, pray is Dunston? This is an animals are funny movie, so he is in fact an orangutan, which for some reason the entire cast of characters insist on describing as a monkey - he's an ape, no wonder he goes on the rampage. When I say he goes on the rampage, the creature doesn't kill someone or anything, as this was strictly slapstick we were talking about here, but somehow more acceptable than the far more vicious Home Alone, which looked to have been an influence.

For some, Dunston Checks In verges on the notorious for featuring some respected thesps like Dunaway and Everett in what could be seen as demeaning roles, but to their credit they throw themselves into the action like troupers. Dunaway has little to do but play the bitchy baddie, so we're not seeing the kind of work in this which won her an Oscar, yet neither is she on a Mommie Dearest level of absurdity, although that might have livened up the final act. As for Everett, he knows he is there to be the typical English baddie in a Hollywood movie, and plays that to the hilt, it's a comedy after all so why shouldn't he be daft?

And daft this is, although curiously it never reaches the spectacular heights of lunacy that you might have anticipated. Much of the humour relies on the simple sight of the orangutan pulling a face, or performing some unlikely act once he has escaped from Lord Rutledge's clutches, and there is a substantial degree of comic mileage to be had from that, but the presence of the ape really should have prompted everyone to eventual hysteria that doesn't arrive, there's only a spot of light panic during the finale. Once Dunston has fled, though after he has stolen a collection of jewelry from a hotel room, he teams up with Kyle, although first the boy has to make certain that everyone else believes him when he says that there's a "gorilla" on the loose.

Well, gorilla is closer than monkey, I suppose. Silly highlights include Alexander spooning with the ape, unaware of what he is doing because he is so sleepy, or Dunston giving a rich guest a worldbeating massage, and it's a film which relies on the strength of its most preposterous ideas. Indeed, the only actor who gets a big laugh without the help of the title star is Paul Reubens, who plays a hunter dead set on tracking down the animal and claims, when asked by Robert where it has come from, that Dunston was a pet flushed down the toilet to the sewers after it got too big, which puts a hilarious image in your head. There are a few misjudgements, as when the hunter reveals that his tranquiliser gun will probably kill the ape - so why on earth is he using it, then? - but for the most part this wins you over with its goodnatured idiocy. Everyone is aware that the orangutan steals the show, however. Music by Miles Goodman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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