Should I Watch..? 'Guest House Paradiso'
What's the big deal?
Guest House Paradiso is a black comedy film released in 1999 and is essentially a big-screen spin-off of the TV sit-com Bottom. Written by the stars of the show Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmundson, the two play co-owners of the worst hotel in Britain who suddenly and inexplicably find themselves catering for a famous Italian actress trying to escape her violent boyfriend. The film also stars Vincent Cassel, Hélène Mahieu, Bill Nighy and Fenella Fielding and was also directed by Edmundson in his directorial debut. The movie proved disastrous among critics and the reviews were so bad that subsequent promotion of the film made more attempts to link the film with the more-warmly received TV show. It didn't work and the film barely recouped half of its estimated £3 million budget. What the film did do was allow Mayall time to recover from a devastating quad bike accident he suffered in 1998, something his fans will be eternally grateful for.
What's it about?
Richie, who is saddled with an unfortunate surname, and Eddie Elizabeth Ndingombaba run a small cliff-top hotel next to a run-down nuclear facility. The pair of them are complete losers - Richie is a lecherous pervert who enjoys engaging in petty theft and bouts of cartoony violence while Eddie is a hopeless alcoholic - and the hotel is easily the worst in Britain. The few members of staff they have are either escaped mental patients or illegal immigrants and the few guests they do have frequently leave without paying.
However, to their amazement, famed Italian actress Gina Carbonara arrives one day and wishes to check in. As she explains, she wishes to lay low to escape her over-bearing, violent boyfriend Gino Bolognese and where better than a hotel that even the locals deny the existence of? Together with the rather normal Nice family who arrive around the same time, things appear to be looking up for the pair. But Gino then arrives...
Richard "Richie" Twat
Eddie Elizabeth Mdingombaba
Adrian Edmundson & Rik Mayall
89 very long minutes
Release Date (UK)
3rd December, 1999
What's to like?
If you don't get a sense of how utterly puerile Guest House Paradiso is from the poster then you probably shouldn't be out by yourself. The film is almost an exact replication of the sit-com Bottom, itself a derivative of the more warmly remembered The Young Ones. The show, in case it passed you by, involves these two characters essentially trapped in a squalid flat and spend most of their time trying to get laid or smacking several colours out of the other. That really is all there was to it so who felt that there was enough material to make a feature-length film?
For fans of the show (and I counted myself among them), the film contains all the slapstick violence and comedic sound effects the show had as well as pushing the puerile humour as far as it can go and occasionally beyond. Mayall and Edmundson, who have played these characters in one guise or another for years, work hard throughout the film but there isn't much there to work with. At no point did I even smile, let alone laugh and remember, I enjoyed the TV show. By contrast, this felt idiotic, chaotic and utterly redundant.
- This was Pegg's debut feature film appearance. He would work again with Bill Nighy and Kate Ashfield in Shaun Of The Dead which is a British comedy worth watching.
- Mayall considered the project a 25th anniversary of his partnership with Edmundson as production started about 25 years after they met at university and became a performing comedy duo.
- Edmundson, who has never written or directed a film since, always wanted to do another movie but the characters were "retired" in 2003 after their fifth live Bottom stage show and Mayall died in 2014.
What's not to like?
The movie feels like a cross between legendary sit-com Fawlty Towers and the infamous Carry On series of films but on acid. The violence is silly, the dialogue is puerile nonsense, the performances are wildly over-the-top and the film sinks like the Hindenburg. I honestly cannot recall a single comedy that didn't make me laugh at some point but Guest House Paradiso has that unwelcome distinction. Perhaps the problem isn't with the film but the audience - given how popular Bottom was in the early Nineties, they hadn't reckoned on their audience growing out of this sort of comedy whereas Mayall & Edmundson haven't grown up one bit. They're like a pair of tragically unfunny uncles whose misogynistic, teenage toilet humour isn't as funny as it was in the Seventies.
The film is so bad that it almost ruined another completely different film I saw recently. Edmundson pops up in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as an Imperial officer on board a First Order vessel and his presence is so off-putting, I half-expected him to grab Kylo Ren and start ramming his head into a fridge. Guest House Paradiso is as toxic as its nuclear power station, infecting the careers of everyone involved. No wonder movie studios were reluctant to cast the pair after this car-crash of a comedy.
Should I watch it?
Absolutely not. Guest House Paradiso is an unwelcome throwback to the days when the British film industry was propped up by increasingly unfunny Carry On films and lurid soft-core sex comedies like Confessions Of A Window Cleaner. It has no redeeming features at all - it isn't funny, entertaining or worthy of note at all. Consider this a warning - if you still watch this film after reading this review, consider yourself banned in future!
Great For: ummm… I'll get back to you.
Not So Great For: anyone looking for a comedy, anyone involved in the production, the British film industry, faith in humanity
What else should I watch?
There are a whole load of British comedies that are much better than this drivel. Let's begin with Withnail And I, a brilliantly written examination of two alcoholic actors colliding with sobriety at the end of the Sixties. The aforementioned Shaun Of The Dead is a genre-hopping tribute to the zombie films of George A. Romero and possibly the best British comedy this side of the Millennium. Going further back, The Ladykillers is probably the best of the Ealing comedies featuring Alec Guinness in fine form as the leader of a group of bank robbers coming up against an elderly landlady. In Bruges is a vastly under-rated comic thriller which sees Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell's Irish hitmen attempting to lay low in Belgium while satirist supreme Chris Morris' excellent Four Lions sees a bumbling would-be terrorist cell operating in London trying to pull off a potential attack.
And then, of course, you have the Monty Python movies. Monty Python's Life Of Brian sees the group in full-on blasphemy mode, a venomous satire of organised religion that continues to provoke ire and reverence in equal measure. But my personal favourite remains Monty Python And The Holy Grail, a more innocent tale of King Arthur's assorted Knights Of The Round Table battling indestructible black knights, carnivorous rabbits and insulting Frenchmen on their noble quest for the Holy Grail. Made on a shoestring budget which weirdly enhances the film's charm, it's the film that got me into Python in the first place and recommendations don't come higher than that.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox