HAMBURG — Some comedies make you laugh out loud. I’m thinking movies like “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles.” Those great Mel Brooks’ films are always good for a laugh; lots of them, guaranteed.
There are other comedies that make you smile. Woody Allen’s movies come to mind. Pleasantly wise and insightful, these movies guarantee a good time and a broad grin.
Then there are comedies that try so hard to be funny. The effort is great, but the result is not funny. Wes Anderson comes to mind. His movies are generally offbeat. He seems to equate offbeat with comedy. Sometimes this equation is correct (“The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Rushmore”). Other times, not. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is such a film.
This, Anderson’s latest romp, should have been funny. With a star-studded cast and the silliest of situations, this farce would have been funny had it been directed by someone else – say, Mel Brooks? What a missed opportunity.
The acting style by the entire cast is wide-eyed absurdist. It never varies. The actors come off like puppets being manipulated by Anderson. You never see one iota of real, flesh-and-blood, breathing human beings.
Herein lies the problem. The situations are fraught with danger, yet we never fear for the characters, because they are not real enough to care about. Perhaps Anderson should have animated this movie like his last film “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which was funny, charming and yes, offbeat; very offbeat. I truly feel “The Grand Budapest Hotel” would have worked very well as a cartoon.
Frankly, the script isn’t very funny. It is painful to watch good actors mug their way through this badly written comedy adventure.
And I didn’t even like the characters. Ralph Fiennes in the lead is especially cloying and annoying. He plays Gustave, a supposedly world-famous concierge at the Grand Budapest Hotel, who caters to rich old women. Set sometime between the two great wars of the 20th century, Gustave takes young Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), the hotel lobby boy, under his wing.
Together, these two unlikely characters are off on a Tom and Jerry adventure, involving a chase all over Europe. They are being pursued by the family of a deceased rich dowager (Tilda Swinton) who leaves her fortune, which includes a very valuable painting, to Gustave.
His pursuers, led by the dowager’s evil son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) and a huge cast of villains, most prominently Willem Dafoe, behave like characters in a Road Runner cartoon.
With such a large cast of characters portrayed by so many major actors such as F. Murray Abraham, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens and many more, the budget for this flick must have been enormous and must have all gone to the cast. The rest of the movie gets shortchanged.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” does not look very grand. With all of the running around and traipsing all over Europe, you would think the scenery would enthrall. The palate is bright and colorful, but not pretty. And it should be pretty. And it should be exciting. And it should be funny. And it is not – down on all three counts.