Picks and Pans Review: Noises Off
Well, you had to see it onstage. Snooty as that put-down is, it applies to this frantic movie version of the 1983 Broadway farce Noises Off. What worked onstage—slamming doors, deft timing, bug-eyed takes—doesn't translate to the screen.
Written by British playwright Michael Frayn, Noises Off is a clever play-within-a-play about a ragtag group of actors performing a cheesy sex farce called Nothing On. As the troupe's cross-country tour progresses, backstage sniping and lovers' quarrels intrude comically into the onstage production. What made all this work in the theater was watching actors slam doors with only seconds to spare, drop their pants at the least opportune moment, or scramble to make scripted Nothing On entrances. In the movie, the comic suspense is missing. You know that if an actor in the film blew a cue, director Peter Bogdanovich reshot the scene.
There are chuckles, thanks to Caine, who, as director of Nothing On, brings snap to a snapless movie. The other actors—Burnett, John Ritter, Marilu Henner, Nicollette Sheridan, Christopher Reeve, Denholm Elliott, Julie Hagerty—flounder. (PG-13)