Dunston Checks In (1996)
Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Written by: John Hopkins, Bruce Graham
Starring: Jason Alexander, Faye Dunaway, Eric Lloyd, Rupert Everett, Graham Sack
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I'm running behind a little again, but I've been trying for a couple days to get caught up. This is what I will finally be able to do with my vacation time! I first watched this movie because we got it somewhere when I was a child. We had it on VHS for years (probably inside Goodwill or Sans Souci somewhere now) but I bought it sometime during my college years out of the $5 dollar bin at Wal-Mart. Many of my purchases, in case you haven't noticed by now, are nostalgia driven. (Hate me all you want, I <3 Power Rangers).
My most recent viewing of this film was a couple of weekends ago. I was with my brothers and my lovely fiancee. My brothers and I had watched this movie a lot growing up, but none of us had watched it anytime recently. It had been probably at least ten years. A lot of things I remembered vividly and others I had completely forgotten, but came back to me like time spent with an old friend. It feels weird at first, but after awhile you're just as in sync as you were when you were together every day.
Anyhow, brief synopsis:
Director Ken Kwapis (He's Just Not That Into You) brings us the story of Robert Grant (Jason Alexander; Seinfeld) who is the manager of the Majestic hotel in New York City. He is widowed and has two kids named Brian (Graham Sack; The Miracle Child) and Kyle (Eric Lloyd; The Santa Clause). The annual "Crystal Ball" is approaching, which is their biggest hotel event of the year, and Robert's boss, Mrs. Dubrow (Faye Dunaway; Network), is in town with word that they have a judge in their hotel who will decide whether or not they go from a five to six star hotel. With two young boys in the hotel, this becomes difficult enough for Robert, but it gets worse. Lord Rutledge (Rupert Everett; Inspector Gadget) has just checked in with his burglary companion Dunston (who is also an orangutan). Dunston is a fun-loving monkey, while Rutledge is all business. Needless to say, Rutledge has never cared for his monkey, and when the going gets tough, Dunston gets going! He befriends Kyle rather quickly, and they have quite an adventure ahead of them.
I have always really enjoyed this movie. I know that The Nostalgia Critic talks about this movie and why movies with monkeys aren't funny, but come on. Monkeys are funny SOMETIMES!! I think that maybe I was more fond of this movie as a child, but I still enjoyed it this time around. There is some adult humor, and an S-bomb (not really sure how that still landed a PG rating, but I'll take it), and still plenty of silly monkey humor and slapstick moments for the kids. Jason Alexander always has a little bit of Costanza in him, and I could see it here. There were also standout performances on the comedic end from Paul Reubens (Mystery Men), Glenn Shadix (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Nathan Davis (Holes). Eric Lloyd was a pretty successful child actor in the 90's, and he did a pretty great job in this movie. Though he was about 10 years old when it premiered, he looked quite a bit younger and it worked well for him in this case.
I've always been a big fan of slapstick humor, monkeys, and Jason Alexander. If you are too, this is a good way to spend your time. I definitely recommend watching it with your kids, but maybe if it's on TV, so that there's no S-bomb you have to explain to them. My parents were concerned when I watched this movie as a kid, but without just a minor word or two in there, it's a great experience for all involved. That's the one part of the movie I could've done without, merely because it expresses lack of commitment to chosen genre.
What Can We Learn?
I think the lesson in this movie is simple, really. It is one that all of us need to hear at one time or another.
In this film, Robert Grant has a lot of things that steal his focus. His kids getting into trouble, his boss, the Crystal ball, a monkey, etc. In the end, (no spoilers) he re-arranges his life so that his priorities are straight. I think this is one of the most important things people can do. Your family should come first, and then your job and all the stress that comes with it. I think (however subtle it may be) that this movie should remind us to be true to ourselves and keep our priorities straight.
I'd say this movie is worth a watch or two. If you haven't watched this movie a couple of times between the time you were 7 and now, like I have, then you might not be reached with the same affection for this movie as I am. But, still. Give it a chance. Especially if you like monkeys. I always give movies a fair shake, no matter how many Razzie awards they have won or been nominated for (in this case, just one). So if you need a little George Costanza, Pee Wee Herman, Kid from Santa Clause and Orangutan in your life...you now know exactly what movie to watch.
I want to thank all my readers as always. Please leave me any feedback..I love having movie discussions so it would really help me to hear your suggestions. I have one more watched movie from that same weekend left to review, and then I am open. I have been considering a Christmas theme, but I am limited on movies that I own in that category. I have added a few since then but please remember that my list was posted awhile back so if you have suggestions, I'd LOVE to hear them.
Thanks for your feedback in advance. Like, click the clicky buttons, or comment to your hearts content.