It seems like every actor in a TV show actually secretly wants to make movies. Just about everyone from "Friends" has a movie deal now. Rob Morrow left "Northern Exposure" to do, well, not much since "Quiz Show." And now Jason Alexander, George from "Seinfeld," steps up to bat in "Dunston Checks In."
Alexander plays Robert Grant, the general manager at the Majestic Hotel in New York. He and his two kids live in the hotel. The social event of the season is coming in a week, and the hotel chain owners are here for an inspection, so everyone needs to be at their best behavior.
With impeccable timing, an international jewel thief team checks in at the same time: a man and his orangutan. After a series of mishaps, the orangutan escapes, and hilarity ensues.
There are some laugh-out-loud moments here, particularly when Paul Reubens (better known as Pee-Wee Herman) is hired as an animal control expert named La Farge. Reubens adds a surreal touch that just works. Rupert Everett, who we last saw as the Prince of Wales in "The Madness of King George," puts in a yeoman's performance as Lord Rutledge, the human half of the jewel-thief team.
But neither Pee-Wee nor the prince can overcome the uneven direction of Ken Kwapis. Kwapis has done some good TV work, including "The Larry Sanders Show," but feature films seem to be out of his reach. And speaking of sticking to TV, Jason Alexander is just going through the motions for most of the movie. Maybe he was wondering why he let his agent talk him into a role where an orangutan gets more screen time.
So despite a few entertaining moments, "Dunston Checks In" ends up uninteresting and formulaic. Don't even bother checking "Dunston" out.
Copyright 1996 Alex Lau
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