Blame It on the Bellboy (1992) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sexual humor and language
Running Time: 78 min.

Cast: Dudley Moore, Bryan Brown, Richard Griffiths, Andreas Katsulas, Patsy Kensit, Bronson Pinchot, Penelope Wilton, Alison Steadman
Director: Mark Herman
Screenplay: Mark Herman
Review published January 26, 2007

Mistaken identities and subject confusion are almost a staple of farces, as many, if not most of them contain at least one instance where two characters have a conversation with each other about two unrelated things, but they seem to think they are talking about the same subject.  When done well, these scenes are actually quite funny, and they can turn a good farce into a great one, if done with a deft enough touch.  

Unfortunately, Blame It on the Bellboy isn't deft enough by a long shot.  First-time writer-director Mark Herman (Brassed Off, Hope Springs) makes a fatal error in thinking that if enough mistaken identities are carried through a whole movie, hilarity is almost guaranteed.  There are moments where it is mildly amusing, but they don't come often, and in fact, once you've gotten the main premise, seeing the gags go on far longer than the comedic payoff necessitates makes this one lose steam well before the end.  Thankfully, at 78 minutes, it isn't long in coming.

Basically, the film's premise involves three British men with similar last names who are staying at the same hotel in Venice, all for very different reasons.  Melvyn Orton (Moore, Arthur) is there to secure a villa home for his busy boss, Maurice Horton (Griffiths, The Naked Gun 2 1/2) has arrived to meet a woman (Wilton, Shaun of the Dead) through a pricy dating service, and Mike Lawton (Brown, Cocktail) is a hit man out to put a dangerous Mafioso (Katsulas, The Fugitive) on ice.  The dimwitted Italian bellboy (Pinchot, Beverly Hills Cop) keeps confusing the names, and ends up delivering messages to the wrong person at the wrong times, with Orton thinking the Mafioso is the real estate agent (Kensit, Lethal Weapon 2), Horton thinking the real estate agent is his sexual liaison, and Lawton thinking the sexual liaison is his mark.  Hilarity ensues.

I suppose that, as long as you are just expecting a little mildly amusing fare, Blame It on the Bellboy will provide enough of a pleasant distraction to entertain.  It's not exactly knee-slappingly funny, but it does contain enough amusing diversions and conversations to have you smiling often, especially during the initial scenes where we can sense just how much calamity each of the hotel guests will get in once they meet their unintended counterparts.  Sometimes it isn't altogether funny, as the gangsters do get a bit more brutal with Orton than is comedically appropriate, Horton comes off very unlikable in coercing his would-be date into the sack, and Lawton's inability to commit the deed against a woman proves to be just as impotent.  

The cast is likeable, the locales exotic, and the comedy distracts enough to keep from getting too unbearable, even when it's bad.  As far as comedies go, it doesn't aim particularly high, so it's hard to fault Herman for not achieving great comedy.  However, it would have come off far better to deliver more of a set-up, as well as more ways to prolong the mistaken identities before they are revealed to the victims, before it breaks down into slapstick and wacky hijinks for the final half hour.  I'm not sure whether to call this sort of movie old-fashioned or merely outdated, but for what it is, there are far better examples out there on the video store shelves if you're in the mood.  

Qwipster's rating

©2007 Vince Leo