Picks and Pans Review: Blame It on the Bellboy

updated 03/23/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/23/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

Dudley Moore, Bryan Brown, Bronson Pinchot

Although the title suggests a comeback vehicle for Jerry Lewis, this is a farce meant to be along the lines of A Fish Called Wanda, only not as blithely mean-spirited. Yes, there's a running gag about accidentally killed animals, as in Wanda, but here they're only birds, not cute little dogs. And, yes, there's a torture scene, but it's only Dudley Moore being tortured. Actually, Moore, playing a wormy London executive assistant sent to Venice to look at a property for his boss, is pleasantly subdued here, almost sweetly forlorn enough to look like Denholm Elliott's kid brother. Moore's mistake is that, along with an assortment of British travelers, he checks into a Venice hotel where a not especially bilingual bellhop (Bronson Pinchot, doing one of his suits-all-nations accents) can't distinguish between the names Orton (Moore), Horton (Richard Griffiths, who's on a sort of blind date) and Lorton (Bryan Brown, a hit man with a contract on an Italian mobster). When the bellboy mixes up everyone's messages, Griffiths is hooked up with Moore's real estate woman (Patsy Kensit), the Mafia mistakes Moore for assassin Brown, and Brown tries to pick off the lonely heart (Penelope Wilton) who has come to meet Griffiths. This is all expertly set up by first-time feature film director-writer Mark Herman. The subsequent twists are clever (the mafioso sends Moore out to do a hit), and the large, amiable cast is game. But the characters tend to be too soft-hearted and too soft-edged (the hit man, it turns out, wants to be a florist), while the escalating shenanigans require no heart at all—just mindless desperation. The best scene is the least hectic: Wilton wistfully singing "Feelings" to Brown in an otherwise empty courtyard. (PG-13)

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