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Movie Review: Noises Off

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An often overlooked comedy from the early 1990s, Noises Off is a hilarious look at the behind-the-scenes lives of a traveling theater group on the verge of destroying their own act. With an endless array of Hollywood talents such as Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Denholm Elliott, Marilu Henner, Mark Linn-Baker, Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, and Nicolette Sheridan (whew!) – Noises Off somehow manages to combine this multitude of characters into a sensible, and sometimes outrageously hilarious, storyline. Movie buffs who love comedies should really consider watching it.

Lloyd Fellowes (Michael Caine) is the director of a traveling theater company. But despite his best efforts, he isn't quite sure he can get the cast and crew together in order to get his production off the ground. Working with a mixed cast of seasoned veterans and unknown newcomers, Fellowes never anticipates what he's in for. With a series of romances, arguments, bouts with alcoholism, and rampant jealousy dominating events behind stage, everyone involved from the director down to the stagehands places the production in jeopardy. (Similar to the hit film Groundhog Day, Noises Off rehashes the same scenes – from the play – over and over again with a different outcome each time).

Noises Off follows the director, cast, and crew from the last moments of their final rehearsal to the tense moments of opening night and all the way to the final performance of the show. Watching Noises Off, the audience learns that most often what they see on the stage isn't nearly half as entertaining as what's going on backstage.

The late Christopher Reeve is one of the brightest stars in Noises Off. His straight face and presence in the midst of ridiculous and comic scenes is priceless. It shows a depth of instinct that professionals cannot teach. But the true star of the film is long-time stage talent Denholm Elliott, playing the role of an aging, drunken actor who bumbles his lines and stumbles onto the stage at the oddest of moments. The late John Ritter also returns to his Three's Company roots with a series of well-timed staircase falls and inadvertent bodily injuries. All of these various actors and actresses combine to perform slapstick comedy at its best, and a true connoisseur of the genre will love Noises Off.

With an ensemble cast composed of the Who's Who of Hollywood, Noises Off did a superb job in the casting department. However, elements of the screenplay could use some work, and the film gets tiresome at points with its replaying of the same scenes. However, from an overall standpoint, Noises Off is more than worth the time and effort. Boasting an array of hilarious comic sequences, it's a movie more than worthy of a few hours.

Britt's Rating: 7.8/10

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About Britt Gillette

  • Clavos

    I once saw a live theatre production of “Noises Off.” It was hilarious. I didn’t know a movie was made as well.

  • Having had seen both a stage production and the film, the film is terrible. The effectiveness of the story depends entirely on the pace of the action. The film misses this where the play nails it.

    See the play, skip the movie.