Nuns On The Run

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Comedy

NUNS ON THE RUN reunites three of England's most prominent entertainment figures--Monty Python's Eric Idle, writer-director Jonathan Lynn (best known outside Britain for the ubiquitous BBC satire series "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister"), and stage/screen/TV producer Michael White (MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL; THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW; MY DINNER...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Rating:

NUNS ON THE RUN reunites three of England's most prominent entertainment figures--Monty Python's Eric Idle, writer-director Jonathan Lynn (best known outside Britain for the ubiquitous BBC satire series "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister"), and stage/screen/TV producer Michael White

(MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL; THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW; MY DINNER WITH ANDRE)--for the first time since 1963. That year White transferred "Cambridge Circus," a student show involving Idle and Lynn, from Cambridge University to London's West End for a successful run, followed by a stint on

Broadway. Unfortunately, this bland and ultimately banal comedy is nowhere near as auspicious a collaboration. Idle plays Brian Hope, a mild-mannered, middle-aged gangster who yearns for the good old nonviolent days of robbery, before drug money brought in a new breed of vicious criminals like his

own boss, "Case" Casey (Robert Patterson). Along with his partner, Charlie McManus (Robbie Coltrane), Brian plans to abscond with a large cache of cash they have been assigned to steal from a drug-dealing Hong Kong gang, the Triads, and to use the money to go straight. Brian takes leave of his new

girl friend, Faith (Camille Coduri), and, with Charlie, manages to steal a million pounds from the Triads and Casey's gang. Unfortunately, while the boys are making their escape, their car runs out of gas--in front of a convent. With their former cohorts and the Triads in close pursuit, Brian and

Charlie duck into the convent and disguise themselves as nuns. The only witness to their escape into the cloister is Faith, who had learned of Casey's plan to kill his two underlings after the heist and had gone to the scene of the crime to warn Brian of the danger. Inside the convent, Charlie (a

lapsed Catholic) and Brian pass themselves off as visiting sisters from a different order, on temporary assignment prior to leaving the country for missionary work. They are required to teach theology to the convent's students--comprised entirely of beautiful 18-year-old girls--and to supervise

them in gym and showers. Faith, slightly wounded during the theft and nearly blind after losing her glasses, follows the cons into the establishment and asks the crafty Sister Superior (Janet Suzman) for permission to look around the premises, pretending to be a teaching applicant. Sister

Superior, who sees through Faith's deception, treats her bullet wound after the girl faints, whereupon Brian looks after Faith in his nun's guise, then changes into his own clothes to break up with her for her own safety. The shattered girl leaves the convent and is promptly kidnaped by the

Triads, who release her when they learn she knows nothing. In a hospital, she is watched over by her father and brother, who vow to punish the gangster who has broken her heart. Brian, meanwhile, realizes he loves her and goes to visit her in the hospital with Charlie, the two still disguised as

nuns. On their return to the convent, they are spotted as men by an alcoholic sister who recently embezzled 50,000 pounds from the convent's drug clinic and lost it by betting on horses. They escape detection that night, but are caught by Sister Superior the following morning when they break into

a locked cupboard to retrieve their suitcases containing the stolen money. Escaping with the loot, Brian and Charlie head for the airport, followed by the nuns, the Triads, and their own gang. At the last minute, Brian forces Charlie to go to the hospital to pick up Faith, who slaps Brian

repeatedly as he explains his actions. She forgives him just as the nuns, the gangsters, and the police (newly added to the chase) are closing in, and the trio elude their pursuers by posing as nurses wheeling a patient on a gurney, losing one of the cash-filled suitcases in the process. The lost

luggage falls into the hands of Sister Superior, who proclaims it a miracle and plans to use the drug money to expand her convent's drug clinic tenfold. Casey is arrested while Faith, Brian, and Charlie, still sought by the gangsters and the police, board a plane to Rio--the men disguised as

stewardesses.

NUNS ON THE RUN might seem, on the surface, to be more than vaguely blasphemous, but it is far too mild to offend the religious on that score; in fact, the comedy might have gained needed piquancy if it had been more daring in that respect. Except for a few gentle zingers--such as this line from a

discussion of the nature of the Holy Trinity: "If it made sense, it wouldn't have to be a religion, would it?"--the Catholic setting is given short shrift. The basic comedic idea at work here is that cross-dressing is inherently funny. It is a venerable premise that has given good service to

practitioners ranging from William Shakespeare to Billy Wilder--essentially, NUNS ON THE RUN is SOME LIKE IT HOT re-dressed in habits--and the film's few genuinely amusing moments arise directly from this age-old principle. But the fun of putting men in drag is not enough to carry an entire film.

NUNS ON THE RUN strives mightily to supplement its transvestite humor with shootouts, chases, and romance, but those distractions fail to satisfy, having little to do with the film's central comedic opportunity.

The humor in this film should have arisen from absurd contrasts in the predicament of the main characters. A man wearing a dress is reasonably amusing, but a man forced to impersonate a sexy or eligible woman is much funnier. That is the main difference, laugh-wise, between NUNS ON THE RUN and

SOME LIKE IT HOT. Since nuns are relatively asexual figures, the gender-bending humor should have been heightened by emphasizing the type of man being forced to wear a habit--a gangster constrained by religious surroundings. Coltrane and Idle are not terribly funny as nuns because, though they are

ostensibly tough guys, they behave more like mischievous choirboys throughout the film. Donning nun's robes hardly makes them seem out of character. NUNS ON THE RUN seems about to get on the right track when Coltrane's Charlie occasionally forgets himself and starts to curse or throw a punch, but

those moments are never developed. Instead, the audience is expected to laugh at little more than the sight of erstwhile thugs pursing their lips, speaking in high-pitched voices, and not quite remembering the stations of the cross. That is settling for very little, considering the potential

richness of this situation and the fact that Idle and Coltrane make a very effective team. Their pairing is especially interesting because they represent two generations of cutting-edge British comic actors, Coltrane having come to prominence as part of "The Comic Strip," an alternative comedy

troupe producing television projects for the BBC similar in outrageous spirit to "Monty Python's Flying Circus." (Violence, adult situations, alcohol abuse.)

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: NUNS ON THE RUN reunites three of England's most prominent entertainment figures--Monty Python's Eric Idle, writer-director Jonathan Lynn (best known outside Britain for the ubiquitous BBC satire series "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister"), and stage/s… (more)

Show More »

Trending TonightSee all »