Mirthful moments are too few and far between to compensate for an otherwise tedious, ragged mess of a movie, written by and co-starring "Monthy Python" alumnus Eric Idle. Thomas Henry Butterfly Rainbow Peace (Idle) is the heir to the British Bournemouth dukedom, displaced early in life when his hippie-dippy American mom, Duchess Lucinda (Barbara Hershey),...read more
Mirthful moments are too few and far between to compensate for an otherwise tedious, ragged mess of a movie, written by and co-starring "Monthy Python" alumnus Eric Idle.
Thomas Henry Butterfly Rainbow Peace (Idle) is the heir to the British Bournemouth dukedom, displaced early in life when his hippie-dippy American mom, Duchess Lucinda (Barbara Hershey), absentmindedly leaves her infant in a restaurant. Returned to her is not her son but another abandoned baby,
who grows up to be roller-blading capitalist Henry (Rick Moranis). Thomas, meanwhile, has been raised by an East Indian family as Tommy Patel, who believes himself Asian and works for an investment banking firm that happens to be owned by the Bournemouth family.
When the Duke dies, Henry takes his place and promotes Tommy, to whom he's taken a shine. Complications ensue: Lucinda is now a man-eating widow with a lech for Tommy, who tracks down Shadgrind (fellow Python John Cleese)--the lawyer who placed him with the Patels--and learns of his heritage.
He's also advised that the only way to claim his inheritance is to kill Henry, a prospect that seems more appealing after a one-night fling with Henry's enchanting fiancee, Kitty (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But unfortunately, Tommy grows to like Henry, so his attempts on Henry's life become
increasingly halfhearted. When Kitty gives birth to a son who may or may not be the issue of Tommy's fling, Shadgrind tries to kill both Henry and the baby. Experiencing a final change of heart, Tommy saves Henry, Kitty, and their baby from Shadgrind and helps bring the mad lawyer to justice. The
question of the dukedom is settled to everyone's satisfaction and all live happily ever after, with Lucinda accepting Tommy as her son and Tommy reuniting with his old girlfriend (DRACULA's Sadie Frost).
Less a movie than an ongoing crisis of cinematic indecision, SPLITTING HEIRS begins promisingly as a semi-remake of KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS before losing itself in meandering shtick. On the plus side, HEIRS is absolutely golden whenever Idle and Cleese are on screen together, proving their past
PYTHON chemistry to have been anything but a fluke. On the down side, Cleese's character never seems integral to the plot, and his scenes with Idle push the movie in a direction it never follows with any conviction, a sort of black-comic retake on STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, with Cleese in the Bruno
Anthony role. Shadgrind seems tacked onto what little plot there is, Cleese's presence sadly suggesting a good friend coming to the aid of an old mate who's in over his head. Idle also has some unexpected comic chemistry with Hershey, whose character was evidently conceived as a good-natured spoof
of Hershey's own sixties "Barbara Seagull" persona. Never explained, however, is just how the hippie airhead Lucinda of the sixties metamorphosed into the man-hungry vamp of the nineties. To her credit, Hershey's sly, funny performance overcomes the limitations of the material. Unfortunately, vast
stretches of HEIRS find Idle looking slack-faced and frankly baffled in his largely unsuccessful attempts to make Rick Moranis seem funny.
To his discredit, director Robert Young betrays no inclination to find a workable story line in a script that needed some ruthless rewriting. Instead, he seems content to let Idle flounder in front of the camera when he has no one to play off. The result is a movie that is funny around the
fringes and therefore recommended on video for those adept with the fast-forward button. (Adult situations, profanity, violence.)
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