Madhouse

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Comedy

John Larroquette and Kirstie Alley play Mark and Jessie Bannister, a yuppie couple who have just moved into their first home: a small but comfortable "starter house" near the ocean that is about to be invaded by houseguests from hell. It all begins when Mark's cousin Fred (John Diehl) and his pregnant wife, Bernice (Jessica Lundy), come to visit. They are...read more

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John Larroquette and Kirstie Alley play Mark and Jessie Bannister, a yuppie couple who have just moved into their first home: a small but comfortable "starter house" near the ocean that is about to be invaded by houseguests from hell. It all begins when Mark's cousin Fred (John Diehl)

and his pregnant wife, Bernice (Jessica Lundy), come to visit. They are an obnoxious pair of goofs from New Jersey, who greet the Bannisters with offhanded remarks about plastic surgery and who have brought along an ugly cat that vomits all over their car. It doesn't take long before Fred and

Bernice move into the master bedroom, lose their travelers checks, and completely disrupt their hosts' love life. To make matters worse, Jessie's money-hungry sister, Claudia (Alison LaPlaca), walks out on her rich husband and also comes to stay with the Bannisters, taking over the rest of the

house. Now Mark and Jessie have no privacy or peace, but that's only the beginning. After five long days, Fred and Bernice prepare to leave, but when the pregnant Bernice slips and falls flat on her back, Jessie is informed by a doctor--to her horror--that Bernice must remain in the nearest bed

for the rest of her pregnancy. Accordingly, she is brought back to the Bannisters' master bedroom, where a harness is constructed that will enable her to be suspended comfortably, over the bed. Just when it looks as though things couldn't possibly get any worse, the next door's neighbors' house is

burned down (thanks to Mark) and the entire family is forced to move in with the Bannisters. The little "starter house" has become a madhouse, full of obnoxious, demanding, and unwanted guests who have literally taken over. Eventually, Fred leaves to "find himself," Bernice's pregnancy is

discovered to be false, Jessie has a nervous breakdown, Mark becomes a fugitive drug dealer, and the particularly hard-to-kill cat lives out its nine lives. Pushed over the edge, Mark and Jessie kick everyone out (destroying the house in the process), and are eventually rewarded with better jobs

and a bigger home. The film ends with a title telling us that the Bannisters lived happily ever after--until their parents came to visit.

Strikingly similar to NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION (all the way down to the unwanted houseguests and dead cat jokes), except with fewer laughs, MADHOUSE is a badly executed slapstick comedy with little redeeming value. Debuting director-writer Tom Ropelewski's flat-footed style suffocates

all potential humor and creates a thoroughly tedious mood. He leaves jokes dangling in the air, waiting for a much needed punch that never comes, and the characters are never developed into more than one-joke stereotypes. Alley ("Cheers") and Larroquette (of "Night Court," for which Ropelewski has

written) are strong TV personalities, but they practically disappear in this big-screen outing, despite MADHOUSE's transparent, TV-movie feel. There is no chemistry between them, nor are they interesting individually (it's only when Alley runs around in a lace bra that she becomes watchable, and

that's hardly a point of recommendation, especially after her work in 1989's surprise hit LOOK WHO'S TALKING). The gags range from exploding toilets to runaway elephants, and the funny moments involve the cat--considering how many times they "kill" it off during the picture, it's bound to get at

least one laugh, and its vomit scene is particularly amusing. Everything else is flat and badly timed.

Admittedly, no one who goes to MADHOUSE will expect edification in the first place. But though the material in MADHOUSE is intentionally sophomoric, though slapstick comedies can be funny, and though there's nothing wrong with a bit of good silliness, assured, deftly paced direction and adroit,

lively performances are necessary to pull such broad comic romps off. MADHOUSE fails to deliver on both these crucial counts. (Profanity, adult situations, sexual situations.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: John Larroquette and Kirstie Alley play Mark and Jessie Bannister, a yuppie couple who have just moved into their first home: a small but comfortable "starter house" near the ocean that is about to be invaded by houseguests from hell. It all begins when Ma… (more)

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