When you're the kind of person who's a bit addicted to reading movie reviews, you begin to learn who you can trust. Which criticism outlets best match your own tastes. Those you can rely on for an opinion more so than you can your own other half or a close family member.
For me, these trusted star-rating bearers are Empire Magazine, Total Film and Den of Geek, the latter of which I also write for. From this information you can glean that I'm quite a positive person with a soft spot for fandoms and geeky things. These sites will rarely slag something off completely unless it truly deserves it.
While I love reading the style of Mark Kermode's writing, and I still hold huge respect for the late, great Roger Ebert, their reviews are often too brutal and harsh to match the tastes of man who has recently defended the Star Wars prequels, Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand in the public realm. Needless to say, when my three chosen sites all agree on giving a film a four star rating or above, I generally try to see that movie.
Such was the case with The Grand Budapest Hotel, widely regarded as a four star picture, which counts as 'excellent' under Empire's trusted rating system. However, having now seen the film I am inclined to disagree.
To this film fan, The Grand Budapest Hotel faced a common problem when visiting hotels. It looked great in all the adverts, it was stunning from the outside, but the cracks in the walls and damp on the ceilings soon began to show once you were actually in it. Ok, I might have gone a bit far with that metaphor.
The trailer for Wes Anderson's latest looked uproariously funny - an odd hotel concierge and his nervous young lobby boy on the run from law. If Fawlty Towers and Enemy of the State had a lewd hotel room liaison, this hilarious-looking movie would surely be the outcome. It was packed with cameos from big comedy names too - this had to be a new comedy favourite in the making.
Sadly it wasn't, not for this writer anyway. With prologues within prologues and a whole host of long drawn out scenes, this film felt more like a Peter Jackson production than a new four star comedy, despite lasting only 100 minutes.
Scenes which could have brought huge laughs, such as the phone tree among concierges, just don't move quickly enough for what is expected in a comedy film. By the time the lobby boy was told to 'take over' each time, the incoming gag had already been spotted a mile off.
The same goes for the running gags involving white-robed monks and lengthy impromptu poetry recitals. These are off-the-wall ideas which could have been side-splitters if the editing and the narrative moved through them quicker.
The scene where Ralph Fiennes' Gustave H has to interrupt fantastic newcomer Tony Revelori's Zero's poem because the alarm has gone off was the biggest laugh during my screening, and its exactly what this film needed more of - sharp comedy beats that cut through the pomp of the characters like a knife.
Another thing that didn't reach my expectations was the handling of much-advertised cameos. Bill Murray and Owen Wilson were completely wasted in straight-faced walk-on roles. If you're going to have two big comedy names show up randomly in your film, at least give them something remotely funny to do. Willem Dafoe, as the film's most villainous character, was somehow funnier.
My tastes usually extend to the weirder spectrum of comedy too. Seeing as my favourite comedies ever include The Cable Guy and The Big Lebowski, and that Computer Chess was one of my favourite films last year, I had expected to enjoy this film far more.
Although I know I'm in the minority, I felt that this film needed more gags, better use of supporting characters and less slow-moving hanging around. I couldn't help feeling like Anderson must have been told one too many times that he was a genius, and decided to just follow his instincts rather than filmmaking logic as a result.
I'd still recommend this picture, but as a three star 'see it when you can, don't rush out' movie rather than anything else. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments.
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