"Basil Fawlty: Trapped in a lame-ass Steve Martin movie!"
John Cleese originally wanted to turn "Fawlty Towers" into a movie. He decided against it. Our loss. So instead we get to see Basil trapped in a Neil Simon movie. Apparently Walter Matthau was busy.I used to adore Steve Martin. His early films and comedy albums were the stuff of genius. Then I saw "Leap of Faith". And then, the laughter stopped.
This is a movie that tries SO HARD to be funny, you can actually hear the filmmakers panting for breath in the background. Even though Goldie Hawn hasn't been funny since 1968 (and even then, she was funny because she was an idiot), I had hopes for this movie. John Cleese still manages to be entertaining, and the concept of him as a hotel manager seemed like movie magic. And Steve? Well, going to a Steve Martin film and expecting it to be funny lately feels like seeing your alcoholic cousin Ron at a family reunion. You really hope the guy's gonna get it all back together, but you're not overly optimistic anymore.
So Steve and Goldie go to New York, and New York is a terrible place to visit. Everybody is so rude. It is so hard to get a cab. Blah blah blah. The movie is a filmed version of why your dad won't let you go to New York by yourself. There is so much contrived wackiness, you feel sorry for Steve. Steve Martin is one of the most intelligent, well-read comedians in the world. He is an art collector, he can discuss serious literature and his New Yorker articles are among the funniest things I've read in my life. But here? He sucks. Just plain sucks. We know you're smarter than this, Steve. Playing a dorky traveller who has no idea how to function in society just isn't you, Mr. Martin. Even when you played Navin Johnston in "The Jerk", you managed to show an undercurrent of intelligence, even in your most idiotic portrayals. Here, you can barely disguise your pity for your character.
John Cleese plays the role of the Hotel Manager as only John Cleese can. He's rude, he's bad-tempered, he does silly walks in women's clothing....He's Basil Fawlty. Every scene he was in had me laughing, because the character is so firmly engrained in the public's consiousness that he doesn't even have to speak to be funny.
Why this movie was made is clear. The original was funny, the public likes Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, and "Housesitter" was funny and charming. So they tried. And they failed. But oh, to see John Cleese behind that hotel desk, almost makes it worth the trip. Almost.Steve Martin's next movie with Eddie Murphy and Frank Oz is getting some good buzz. Come on, cousin Ron, deep down I never truly gave up on you.