24 December 2008 | Beta_Gallinger
Severe flaws and not enough laughs
I was too young to see this 1993 British comedy (rated PG-13) when it was released, but saw it a couple times in 2005. Before seeing it, I knew it featured Eric Idle and John Cleese, both of Monty Python fame, as well as Canadian actor Rick Moranis, whom I knew best for his role as Bob McKenzie, one of the two stereotypical Canadian brothers, Bob & Doug McKenzie. Knowing about those three cast members, I was hoping for a funny movie. Around the beginning, I was getting disappointed, but eventually found that it got better. My second viewing wasn't much different from my first, but my third viewing, over three years later, was disappointing.
In the 1960's, the son of the 14th Duke of Bournemouth is born, and is his rightful heir. The boy's hippie parents accidentally lose him, and find a baby boy which is assumed to be him. However, it turns out that they had the wrong boy! Their son is adopted and raised as Tommy Patel by an Indian family in England, and has no clue that he is actually the rightful heir to the title of the Duke of Bournemouth until after he grows up! That title goes to an American named Henry Bullock, and it is after Tommy meets him that he gradually finds evidence indicating that he is not the rightful heir! Tommy talks to a lawyer named Raoul P. Shadgrind about this, and learns from him that it will be hard to claim the position while the current Duke is still alive, but it will be easier if Henry dies! With that in mind, determined to get back what he lost as a baby, Tommy begins to carry out assassination attempts on the false heir!
Even back when I was reasonably impressed with this movie, I realized that there were casting problems, with Barbara Hershey as Duchess Lucinda, the real mother of Tommy, played by Eric Idle. The problem with this is that Hershey is about five years younger than Idle, and I would say she looks even younger than that! Plus Idle plays a character who was born during the hippie era, even though Idle himself was born over twenty years before that era began! However, those major casting problems certainly don't completely ruin the film. The main problem with "Splitting Heirs" is that it simply isn't very funny. There were definitely times when I laughed during my third viewing, with the outcome of some of the assassination attempts, and I guess some occasional really funny lines, but there was not quite enough humour to satisfy. Duchess Lucinda can be a tad irritating, with her sex-obsessed ways, and it seems Hershey tries to be funny in this role, but doesn't succeed. There are some fairly lame gags involving her character. I think I realized this during my second viewing, but it seemed worse with my third. I guess that's because I didn't find enough to make up for it this time.
No, this movie isn't very long, but during my most recent viewing, it seemed like it was! I remembered not being so impressed around the beginning of the film before, so it didn't surprise me that I wasn't laughing much during the early part of the film this time, but unlike before, I didn't find that it ever really improved much as it went along! For the most part, the dullness continued. Whenever a really good gag came along, it didn't last long, and then the dullness would soon come back. Maybe "Splitting Heirs" is good for one or two viewings, but wears thin after that, or maybe I've changed a bit in three years. Well, whatever the reason is for my recent disappointment with this film, I'm clearly not alone, though I still don't hate it like some people do. For Monty Python fans, Eric Idle COULD make you laugh in this film, and so could John Cleese in his smaller part. As for Rick Moranis, of "SCTV" fame, I don't think his character in this film has ever really stood out to me. So, for Python fans, this movie, written by and starring Eric Idle, could be worth a try, but could also seriously disappoint you. In any case, your expectations definitely shouldn't be TOO high.