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‘Splitting Heirs’ (PG-13)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 04, 1993

"Splitting Heirs," the feeble new comedy with Rick Moranis and Eric Idle (from a script by same), is sadly lacking in something -- that something being, namely, Dudley Moore. Admittedly, the concept that a film -- that anything -- might be improved by Moore's participation is tough to grasp. But, truly, this echt British romp is exactly like the kind of half-baked casserole that our lovable aging elf keeps showing up in lately. It's a Dudley Moore film without Dudley Moore. And if this is the best that Idle and Moranis can come up with, I hope they can play the piano too.

Directed by Robert Young, this silly comedy of British manners gets its laughs by trotting out the same trunk of sadly overworn caricatures that comedies of British manners have always used. And if these eccentric "limey" types were crisp and bubbly 70, even 50 years ago when they were the rage of stage and screen, they have grown stale and flat in the interim. Watching this latest example of the genre -- and the recent "Peter's Friends" -- the form certainly seems to have fallen on evil times.

And this is said about a film with John Cleese. John Cleese, the divine, who does have a few deranged moments scattered throughout the film. He plays a not-overly scrupulous lawyer named Shadgrind, and just the chance to see him, from the back as he walks away from the camera, is almost enough to earn a recommendation. With his back to the audience, he's better than anything else in the film.

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