Plot: At a plush hotel, Robert (Jason Alexander) tries to balance all the needs of his eccentric, privileged clientele and raise his two sons, who always seem to be getting into trouble. A gala event is just ahead for the hotel and Robert has to make sure everything is perfect, or risk losing his job and by turn, his home, as he and his sons also reside at the hotel. So he warns his kids to behave, but he has no idea an unusual guest is about check in, one that makes his devious sons look like angels. His name is Dunston and he happens to be a orangutan, one trained to pull off heists under the leadership of his owner, Lord Rutledge (Rupert Everett). While Rutledge has him well trained, Dunston is a free spirit and although he is supposed to be stealing some valuables, he is more interested in raising a ruckus. Can a mischievous orangutan blend in at a high class hotel or will his antics land him and Robert’s family in hot water?
Entertainment Value: This is a brisk, slapstick family aimed comedy, with an orangutan in the middle of a chaotic hotel for the social elite. As this is designed for younger audience, the narrative is a simple one and it focuses on fun, as Dunston causes trouble whenever possible. The movie presents some topics kids can likely relate to, such as wanting to spend more time with hard working parents and trying to fit in, but these aren’t explored in depth. Even so, I appreciated the effort to put a little depth into the story thread, even if it is minor points. The pace in this one is fast and the plot moves from joke to joke well, then once Dunston is on the loose, it powers toward the finale at an even greater clip. This is light, fluff entertainment that just wants to provide some laughs and for the most part, it succeeds. Of course, those looking for rich, redeeming cinema for younger audiences might not be impressed here, but if you just want a few laughs, Dunston Checks In offers some good fun.
Although Dunston is the real star here, he is surrounded by some colorful talent that all seem to embrace the silliness of the material. Jason Alexander channels his typical neurotic, over stressed persona, while Rupert Everett hams it up as an over the top villain, complete with cornball accent. Faye Dunaway is a lot of fun as a Queen of Mean type hotel owner and of course, her interactions with Dunston are a lot of fun, as well as a little surreal, at least to me. A highlight is Dunston giving Dunaway a massage, with her unaware he is the masseuse. The cast also includes Eric Lloyd, Paul Reubens, Glenn Shadix, and Jennifer Bassey in prominent roles. I mean, who doesn’t want to see Pee Wee Herman and Otho from Beetlejuice get into some monkey business, right? This is never going to be high art, but Dunston Checks In does exactly what it aims to do, provide some silly, fun laughs and colorful performances.