Directed by Randy Miller. Starring Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Kim Greist, Jeffrey Jones. (1995)
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., Jan. 6, 1995
With both Jim Carrey and Tim Allen having successfully made the transition from the boob tube to the silver screen, along comes the latest bid for big movie stardom, namely comedy star Sinbad in Houseguest. A blatant retread of the Jim Belushi vehicle Taking Care of Business, as well as the similarly titled Housesitter, Houseguest follows the adventures of Kevin Franklin, a young man obsessed with money and every way to get it, with the notable exception of good old-fashioned hard work. Having borrowed cash from some unsavory characters to finance his various get-rich-quick scams, Kevin soon finds himself on the run from a pair of dimwitted mobsters who want him dead. So, when family man Gary Young (Phil Hartman) accidentally mistakes Franklin for his old high school buddy whom he hasn't seen in years, he plays along, hiding himself out in their lovely suburban home and doing his best to maintain his false identity as Derick, a wealthy and highly respected dentist. Despite an amusing first 15 minutes and a few scattered laughs (most of which appear in the theatrical trailer), the movie just doesn't make the grade, offering up a parade of moldy clichés, strained comedy, and false sentiment. However, I wouldn't go as far as to blame Sinbad, who is obviously trying hard and comes off fairly likably, but, rather, the film's by-the-numbers scripting and clumsy direction. Another television star, Phil Hartman, whose biting sarcasm was the saving grace of last year's pathetic would-be comedy Greedy, seems bored silly by the whole affair, walking through the picture with a bewildered indifference that seems to suggest that he does not want to be in this movie. The rest of the cast appears similarly underwhelmed by the material at hand, and performances all around are workmanlike at best. (Even the talented Kim Griest is totally wasted in a nothing role.) Probably the weirdest thing about Houseguest is its bizarre visual style: Teeming with choppy jump cuts between mismatched shots, oddball multiple dissolves, and an unusual technique of repeating the same action from several different angles in rapid fire succession, the film appears to have been drastically overhauled during editing in a failed attempt to generate the carefully structured rhythms of witty banter and manic comedy. The final result is confusing and sloppy. All this, coupled with more annoying product placement from McDonald's (Even the eight-year-old kid next to me exclaimed “McDonald's again?!?” during the umpteenth mention of “Mickey D's” in the dialogue), adds up to disaster, for Houseguest is a film that lacks solid construction from the ground up, something that can't be “fixed in the editing,” I'm afraid.