A bad movie is like being trapped in an elevator with someone you are desperate to get away from; Mark Herman’s bizarre 1992 comedy is like being trapped in a lift with a dozen screaming idiots. This is a rare Hollywood film that doesn’t even manage 80 minutes, and that’s with lengthy opening credits offering postcard views of Venice, which are the best thing in this farrago. Even studied ironists may balk at some of the elements contained here; trigger warnings are required for offensive content.
This hate-watch begins with a group of oddities descending on a busy hotel; Bronson Pinochet plays the man-child bell-boy who mixes them up with un-hilarious consequences. Bryan Brown is a hit-man, Dudley Moore an estate agent, Richard Griffith is a philandering mayor who is aiming to cheat on his wife by signing up to an expensive dating agency. The bellboy mixes up messages intended for each of them, and the comic confusion never gets started. The worst plot-line sees Griffith meeting Patsy Kensit as an estate-agent under the impression he wants to buy property. Griffith thinks she’s there for an affair, and demands to sleep with her, and she agrees, thinking that her sexual favours are required to close the deal. The act itself is shown in some detail, and we’re meant to find it funny that she allows herself to be taken advantage of in this way. Even when she tries to turn the tables on him via blackmail, she ends up getting her comeuppance, so that’s what women get for not knowing their place…sigh.
Such repugnant attitudes beset all the female characters, from Penelope Winton to Alison Steadman; Herman seems to have inhaled deeply on the most misogynist elements of farce and then vomited up a sickly confection that’s utterly poisonous to watch. Racist, sexist and deeply unfunny, Blame It On The Bellboy is the kind of comedy that, in its stupidity, raises questions about the world it depicts with such tone-deaf glee.
That we’re expected to guffaw at the situations depicted here beggars belief, and reveals a cold-heart behind the ancient farce mechanisms. Herman went on to duds like Hope Springs and Purely Belter before 2008 The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, which hopefully ended his career. But the roots of such awfulness lie here in this misbegotten, unfunny film that blots the reputation of all concerned. Blame is deserved, and hereby delivered with some predudice.