A WALK DOWN NOSTALGIA LANE REVIEW: “Dunston Checks In” stars Jason Alexander (Seinfeld [TV series], The Hunchback of Notre Dame ), Faye Dunaway (Chinatown, Network), Eric Lloyd (The Santa Clause, Jesse [TV series]), Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Happy Prince), Graham Sack (New York Undercover [TV series], Play/Stop [Short]), Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, The Smurfs ), Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas), Nathan Davis (Risky Business, Holes), and Jennifer Bassey (27 Dresses, All My Children [TV series]). It is directed by Ken Kwapis (A Walk in the Woods, Big Miracle), and written by John Hopkins (Torment, Stranger in Town [TV Movie]) and Bruce Graham (Anastasia, Cedar Cove [TV series]). The son of a hotel manager befriends an orangutan, stirring up more trouble in the hotel walls than ever before.
When did this chimp craze come about? I remember growing up seeing quite a few monkeys take center stage of kids films; then again, they were produced sometime in the 90’s. And man, is “Dunston Checks In” a 90’s flick. Fit with baggy attire, too-cool-for-school kids, and hotel hijinks, this classic under-the-radar piece has a lot to offer, though yielding to the familiar within its sub genre. We’ve got workaholic dads trying to please their kids and an abused animal on the run. On top of that, Charlie from Tim Allen’s “The Santa Clause” is in this, and boy does he have range for an actor! Sarcasm? I think so. Granted, he is a sweet little guy, so I guess he passes the judgement; if only his character was given depth. Everything is surface level with “Dunston Checks In.” Sure, it’s a kid’s feature, it’s supposed to be straightforward and harmless. But… come on now. Besides the usual chimp humor, there isn’t much to really keep you awake as an adult in this. I like the heart of the story, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve seen it in other movies, like the aforementioned “The Santa Clause,” which is a far superior film. Something about 90’s kid flicks screams family values and skater dude ethics. I for one enjoy the style, given how I’ve grown up on it, but I will say that “Dunston” can be a throwaway. Sure, I might show my kids it one day, but it won’t be a priority. Really, the draw-in for this are the unbelievable stars they snagged. Jason Alexander, Faye Dunaway, and Paul Reubens. Good grief, what a pairing. All of them did well with what they were given. Alexander does his usual Costanza, Dunaway embodies an exaggerated character masterfully, and Reubens is simply peculiar. It’s always interesting seeing him in a role other than Pee-Wee, and I thought he was entertaining to say the least. You could really chalk up this movie to be the same in quality: it’s more or less entertaining. There isn’t much more satisfaction outside of that, besides the nostalgia it gave me (as if any of these films in this marathon are immune to that). If you’re looking to watch an enjoyable, wholesome film with your kid, this might fit the bill. However, I wouldn’t hold it above other choices. FINAL SCORE: 71%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: