Rita Kempley - Style section,
‘Dunston Checks In'
Widower and five-star hotel manager Robert Grant (Jason Alexander) is looking forward to a well-deserved vacation with his two sons. But his nasty boss, Mrs. Dubrow (Faye Dunaway), wants Grant to cancel his holiday because a hotel inspector may be visiting.
Grant's problems are compounded by curmudgeonly guest Lord
Rutledge (Rupert Everett), who we soon discover is a con artist.
He secretly brings an orangutan, Dunston, who scales exterior walls and slithers
through ducts to rob hotel guests. The thievery begins, Grant
loses his mind, Mrs. Dubrow yells, and no one believes
Grant's youngest son, who claims he saw
a gorilla in the vent.
-- Desson Howe
‘Dunston’: Check It Out
You're leafing through the Weekend section wondering, "Where can I see a cute movie, starring Faye Dunaway and, if possible, an orangutan?"
Rejoice, there is such a beast! It's called "Dunston Checks In" and it ain't half bad—that is, if you like stories set around reddish-brown apes.
In the movie, widower and five-star hotel manager Robert Grant (Jason Alexander) is looking forward to a well-deserved vacation with his two sons. But his nasty boss, Mrs. Dubrow (Faye Dunaway—what did I tell you?), tells Grant a hotel inspector is rumored to be visiting. She wants Grant to cancel his holiday, so he can ensure the hotel grabs that exclusive sixth star.
Grant reluctantly informs his children of the bad news, then prepares for an even more rigorous week than usual. But his problems are compounded by curmudgeonly guest Lord Rutledge (Rupert Everett), whose very special, secret cargo will turn the Majestic Hotel into bedlam.
"Lord Rutledge," we soon discover, is a con artist, whose orangutan, Dunston, scales exterior walls and slithers through ducts to rob hotel guests. The thievery begins, Grant loses his mind, Mrs. Dubrow yells, and no one believes Grant's youngest son, Kyle (Eric Lloyd), who claims he saw a gorilla in the vent.
Although "Dunston" is essentially for the kids, anywhere from 5 on up, its humor will make older moviegoers (particularly parents) glad they checked into this movie too. Dunston is rather funny, especially when he breaks into a dowager's room and tries on all her personal effects (including a set of panties over his head). As the nasty mastermind, Everett is wonderfully peevish. When Kyle asks about the strange knockings coming from his trunk, the pseudo-aristocrat coldly replies: "Probably one of my sports coats. I've been told they're a little bit loud."
Alexander is also amusing, but most notably when he suggests George, the popular character he plays on TV's "Seinfeld." When his children have indirectly caused everyone in the lobby to get soaked in the ornamental pond, he hands the boys a carving knife and tells them quietly to stab him in the back. "Just push it in and start carving," he begs.
DUNSTON CHECKS IN (PG) — Contains nothing offensive, except naughty raspberry sounds from Dunston.
‘Dunston’: Aping the Inn Crowd
By Rita Kempley
Two precocious primates—a boy and an orangutan—go ape in "Dunston Checks In," a cheerful romp through a fussy New York hotel. Inspired by three of the greatest dames in hostelry—Eloise, Leona and Ivana—this plucky, prank-filled family farce also lampoons the Queen of Mean, thinly disguised herein as the imperious Mrs. Dubrow (a game Faye Dunaway, who hung with the Trumpster to get a feel for the hotel biz).
Mrs. Dubrow can find nothing good to say about the staff of her husband's Majestic Hotel, whose excellence has won the facility Michelin's top rating. Mr. Grant (berugged Jason Alexander), the Majestic's manager, easily juggles the demands of the Dubrows, the staff and the hoity-toity guests. It's the recently widowed Grant's mischievous son, Kyle (Eric Lloyd), who's forever upsetting the orderly world of the plush hotel.
Kyle, who still misses his late mother, is only trying to get his father's attention, but Mr. Grant is too busy organizing an upcoming charity ball to spare the 10-year-old much time. Kyle's adolescent brother (Graham Sack) sometimes joins Kyle's escapades, but he's easily distracted by beautiful female guests and those magazines under the mattress.
Cue the monkey. Dunston (Sam) and his malevolent master, Lord Rutledge (Rupert Everett), check in. Rutledge has forced Dunston into a life of crime as an international jewel thief complete with a little black jumpsuit and a hat. But Dunston escapes, he befriends Kyle, and madcap antics ensue.
Ken Kwapis, who directed both the mega-stinker "Vibes" and the Muppet charmer "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird," is clearly back on track with this kid-pleaser. Guess he's just great with animals. He draws a stellar performance from the starring simian, a 5-year-old making his film debut. Oscar take note.
The shaggy-haired Sam brings to the role Cheetah's comic timing and Chaplin's feel for the poignancy underlying the laughter. An adorable scene-stealer, he is ably supported by a gap-toothed Everett, obviously enjoying his villainous turn. Adding to the havoc is Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman), who pops up like a weird Cracker Jack surprise in a cameo as an animal control officer.
Animal control? Hmmmm. Well, it's a stretch, but Pee-wee prevails.
Dunston Checks In is rated PG.