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‘Eat the Rich’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 20, 1988


Peter Richardson
Lanah Pellay;
Ronald Allen;
Sandra Dorne;
Nosher Powell
Under 17 restricted

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We've eaten Raoul, Consumed with Passion and Shopped with Horror near Motel Hell. And still the cannibalistic movies keep coming, like "Eat the Rich," a forced-feeding of a comedy that's tough to swallow.

As written and performed by founders and members of The Comic Strip, a London comedy troupe formed in the '70s, "Eat" has all the tastelessness of, say, a John Waters film, but none of its subtle graces. Although writers Peter Richardson and Pete Richens have a flair for one-liners and recasting comic British standbys (rich, poor, twit, villain, big-breasted, dark-skinned), they strain so hard to be funny, you wish they'd relax. Lead performer Lanah Pellay also overreaches as a waiter called Alex. Tarted up in lipstick and ponytail, he rolls his eyes, bats his eyelids, purses his lips and generally comes on like Pee-wee Herman imitating Divine.

In this wog-eat-cad of a rock-video farce, Alex and three other societal misfits take over a snooty restaurant (called Bastard's), kill its clientele, then serve up the kind of two-legged delicacy that shops on Bond Street. As one shocked customer puts it, "Good grief, these people are eating their way through the jet set."

Given England's divided world -- friends of Maggie Thatcher here, workers and immigrants way over there -- "Eat's" motivation is understandable, if not comical. Too often, director Richardson mistakes shocking for humorous, as when a woman gives birth in the kitchen, while human parts are being hamburgered (when do we laugh?). The idea of Alex robbing a Social Security office and then leading a "Groucho Marxist" revolution is amusing. The execution isn't.

"Eat," however, is almost worth the price of admission to meet Nosher (Nosher Powell) -- a big cockney bruiser who wears lime-green suits, swigs Red Stripe beer and is Great Britain's Home Secretary (akin to our Interior secretary). Nosher's an ex-boxer who strides past SWAT teams to punch out terrorists ("All right, 'oo started it?"). And when an attractive woman asks what he does, he says with bristling pride, " 'ome Sec. Is that flash or what?" But Nosher's in love with his buxom, ambitious wife Sandra (Sandra Dorne). And at least he exudes a likability missing elsewhere in "Eat the Rich."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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