It’s been just over 26 and a half years since the release of Dunston Checks In but this film remains a complete laugh riot.
“Why is everyone in this hotel always slapping me?!?” – Lionel Spalding to Buck LaFarge
With everything going on, I really needed a mindless comedy. One that I didn’t really need to think too hard about. This is the thing about watching this sort of film: it is critic-proof. It’s a family comedy and full of hysterics. Either you’ll like it or you won’t. I grew up watching this film at least once a year on VHS so I knew that it would make me laugh. Mind you, it’s also been many years since my last viewing and we know how movies can be with regards to aging. Think Grand Hotel but with a lot of slapstick comedy. Miles Goodman’s score also manages to elevate the film as it moves along with a fast pace.
The Majestic Hotel is a five-star hotel in New York City. They’re expecting someone from the Le Monde Traveller Organization so every employee needs to be on their best behavior. When Elena Dubrow (Faye Dunaway) sees “Lord” Rutledge (Rupert Everett) searching for Dunston, she believes him to be the critic. Little does she know that Lionel Spalding (Glenn Shadix) and his hotel visit is a living nightmare. His trip gets off with a bad start when Kyle (Eric Lloyd) and Brian Grant (Graham Sack) cause the fountain to overflow as part of a prank. Their widowed father, Robert Grant (Jason Alexander), is the hotel manager and immediately grounds them.
We have two main storylines going on here. One is the hotel’s bid for a sixth star, highlighted by their hosting of the Crystal Ball. The other part involves jewel thief Rutledge and Dunston’s escape. Dunston befriends Eric and Brian but Robert calls animal control when he first spots him during a meeting. Buck LaFarge (Paul Reubens), an animal control specialist, starts his investigation. Fights ensue during the Ball, resulting in Spalding getting tranked, Robert getting fired by Mrs. Dubrow, and Dubrow crashing into the cake. Ultimately, Spalding reveals himself and delivers the news to Mrs. Dubrow just before passing out.
In an epilogue, the Grants and Dunston appear to be happy at the Bali Majestic. Unfortunately, Lionel Spalding and Neil are checking in and in for quite the surprise.
The one part of this film that makes zero sense is when Neil jumps off of the roof. In theory, the dog should have died on impact when he hit the ground. Instead, Neil falls directly into a dumpster. It makes for great comedy when Eric returns him to Lionel but it’s one of the unrealistic things about this film. But again, this film is critic-proof–don’t think too hard about it!
What I didn’t know growing up was that the film was a box office bomb, bringing in $9.9 million to a $16 million budget. However, it did a better job once it made it to home video, where it made just over $40 million. My brother received the film for either his birthday or Chanukah. I just know that it was never apart of my personal collection. In any event, films like Dunston don’t get made today. It’s a studio farce that harkens back to another era in movies.
Dunston Checks In is a mindless comedy but it’s still a lot of fun after 26+ years.
DIRECTOR: Ken Kwapis
SCREENWRITERS: John Hopkins and Bruce Graham
CAST: Jason Alexander, Faye Dunaway, Eric Lloyd, Rupert Everett, Glenn Shadix, and Paul Reubens
20th Century released Dunston Checks In in theaters on January 12, 1996. Grade: 3.5/5
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