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MOVIE REVIEWS : 'Bellboy' Checks In With Old-Style Comedy of Errors

March 06, 1992|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Blame It on the Bellboy" (citywide) is a dated, mildly amusing comedy of errors that benefits from its seductive Venice setting and a stalwart, largely British cast. It seems a throwback to the '60s, the kind of picture that featured David Niven in the latter part of his career and was aimed at the international market.

Feature-debuting writer-director Mark Herman's plot turns upon the fact that at a posh Grand Canal hotel (modeled after the incomparable Danieli) there's a bellboy (a hilarious Bronson Pinchot) who can barely speak English. To his ears the names Lawton, Orton and Horton seem indistinguishable, and therefore he mixes up the messages awaiting these three men upon their arrival.

As a result, hit man Lawton (Bryan Brown) targets for assassination an English spinster (Penelope Wilton), who's come to Venice on a blind date arranged by a matchmaking service; dithery clerk Orton (Dudley Moore), sent to Venice to look over a house on the Lido for possible purchase by his nasty, foul-mouthed boss (the voice of director Lindsay Anderson) is mistaken for Lawton by a local Mafioso (Andreas Katsulas); and Horton (Richard Griffiths) confuses Realtor Patsy Kensit, who's expecting Orton, with the spinster played by Wilton.

As is so often the case with comedy that calls for a sophisticated, throwaway style, Herman should have set his sights higher and demonstrated more skill. Some of the gags work, but he is more of a director of traffic than actors: "Blame It on the Bellboy" moves with dispatch but few nuances.

But his cast, which includes Alison Steadman as Griffiths' wife, an unexpected arrival, is first-rate. Faring best are Brown and especially Wilton, who are allowed an appealing and amusing transformation. "Blame It on the Bellboy" (rated PG-13 for sex and language) is good-looking but not likely to add much luster to Hollywood Pictures and Silver Screen Partners IV.

'Blame It on the Bellboy'

Dudley Moore: Melvyn Orton

Bryan Brown: Charlton Black/Lawton

Richard Griffiths: Maurice Horton

Andreas Katsulas: Scarpa

A Buena Vista release of a Hollywood Pictures presentation in association with Silver Screen Partners IV. Writer-director Mark Herman. Producers Jennie Howarth, Steve Abbott. Executive producer Cinematographer Andrew Dunn. Editor Michael Ellis. Costumes Lindy Hemming. Music Trevor Jones. Production design Gemma Jackson. Art director Peter Russell. Set decorator Peter Walpole. Sound Peter Glossop. Running time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13 (sex and language).

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