Noises Off (1992)

noises off 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Behind-the-scenes discord.

An eclectic group of actors put on a play that they take on tour. The play is a sort of door slamming British farce that is full of innuendos and misunderstandings and the film captures them during one particular scene of that play. It follows them as they rehearse that scene and then perform it live to an audience. It also shows the behind the scenes discord that develops between the cast and how this affects the performance of the scene, which culminates in a completely disastrous showing in Cleveland.

This should have been a really fun movie. It’s certainly an originally structured idea and it is slickly handled. It brings back the days of screwball comedy where things were funny just for the sake of being funny. Everything is contained and nothing is out of place or crude. In some ways it’s a refreshing change of pace.

The cast is certainly game and perfect for this type of comedy. Christopher Reeve and John Ritter come off best. Reeve seems to be playing his Clark Kent character only to a higher degree. Ritter does his Jack Tripper routine not only with the physical side, but also the nuance. His character tries very hard to be politically correct and it is amusing watching him never able to get to the point.

The film offers some light satire into the whole stage production process. Everything from the fragile temperaments of the actors to the high strung director is examined. It also takes some good shots at the plays themselves and how these stage comedies always seem to have such a high reliance on extreme coincidences.

There are some good laughs, but after a while it becomes a bit too much and exhausting to watch. The jokes and gags come so fast that if you blink you will miss some. There is also too much reliance on the frantic side of comedy, which eventually starts to lose its cuteness. The characters are placid and so are the situations. There is also the redundancy factor of having to see the same scene done over and over.

The end result is meticulously choreographed tripe and as silly as the play it seems to be mocking. It also has a glaring factual error. Michael Caine, the play’s director, talks about all the cities they have been too. He mentions Cairo, Missouri as one. There is a Cairo in Illinois but none in Missouri.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: March 20, 1992

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Studio: Touchstone Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

12 responses to “Noises Off (1992)

  1. I first saw this as a live play put on by a college and it was hilarious! When the movie came out I went to see it and was pretty disappointed. Not sure why it didn’t transfer to the screen.

    • Although I never saw the play version I have a feeling it was better and it got good reviews from the critics. If they ever put on a version of it in my area I am going to see it as I liked the idea, it’s just the execution of it, at least in the film version, that didn’t seem to gel.

  2. I LOVE this movie!!!! I also love the original play version too. But I did see the movie first before the play (and it was my college that put on the play and I didn’t particularly think the cast was that grand so maybe that’s why) but anyway – I love this movie! Your review makes me sad. πŸ˜‰ Although seeing the same scene over and over again is a bit, well, redundant. I so want to be in the play version somewhere…

    • I wonder what you mean by my review making you sad. Are you sad because I didn’t like the movie as much as you, or because I brought up certain problems about it that you may overlooked the first time, but are now more aware of?

      Alot of people have been telling me that the play version is better. I like the idea and would like to see it some time. Some things are just meant for the stage and won’t work on the big screen. Like I said, I was enjoying it for a while, but it seemed to become too one-dimensionally frantic and dizzying for my tastes. I would have liked it to slow down a bit, or paused just enough to allow the viewer to catch their breath.

      • Sad because you didn’t like it as much, lol. I noticed the majority of the problems but still love it (I also love, love the majority of the actors in it which helped!). πŸ™‚

        The stage version is pretty much the same especially with the frantic and dizzying (although I think that one scene backstage with no lines is done a little differently because there’s no camera cuts, etc. and that has to be made up for). Hopefully you’ll be able to catch it somewhere some time and see how it does for you. πŸ™‚

        I also think my fondness for it probably has to do with having seen this sort of thing (although not to quite this level) backstage at shows. You know?

      • Yes, I did like the satire of all the backstage schenadigans that go on between the actors and I would think for someone that works in plays would appreciate it more for that reason.
        So, when you say that you like the majority of the cast does that mean you like Carol Burnett? She has always been a favorite of mine. I grew up watching her classic variety show. You should catch some of it on YouTube if you haven’t seen it as I think you will find it very funny. As an aspiring actress I think you can appreciate her style as she is really good at playing a variety of different characters and roles. A legend in her own time.

      • Definitely – especially since when I watched I had only worked on college productions (or church productions) and you seriously have some backstage drama happening there, lol.

        I do like Carol Burnett. πŸ™‚ I mostly know her from Annie though and haven’t seen the variety show (although I’m familiar with the idea of it). I’ll definitely have to check it on YouTube – thank you! She is definitely amazing and definitely legendary. I also really liked John Ritter, Michael Caine, Julie Hagerty and Marilu Henner. And realizing years after the fact that the blond ditz was Nicolette Sheridan was fun too.

      • The only thing fun about Nicolette Sheridan, at least for a guy’s point of view, is seeing her in that skimpy outfit, which is where I believe most of her ‘talents’ lie. Definitey check out Carol’s show when you have a chance. A lot of the skits are only about five minutes long so you can catch them on the fly. You can also put in ‘Eunice’ in the search bar, or ‘Eunice Higgins’ and see her playing her signature role of a repressed southern housewife fighting with her Mama played by Vicki Lawrence. Classic stuff. I suppose you are going to tell me that you really liked ‘Annie’ too.

      • Oh, I’m sure that’s where her talents lie, lol. I didn’t even watch Desperate Housewives. And Eunice – that’s from Momma’s House? I know Vicki Lawrence. But yes, will check out when I get some free time. πŸ™‚

        And I liked Annie okay but it was never my absolute fave. I’m picky about musicals sometimes. *shrugs*

      • Actually the whole ‘Mama’s Family’ thing started as a skit on ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ in 1974 althoug it was edgier and the Mama character was more severe than what she later became in the TV-show.

        BTW Vicki got her start on ‘The Carol Burnet Show’. In 1967 at the age of 18 she wrote Carol a fan letter and told her how much people said they looked alike. She even sent a photograph of herself inside the letter. Little did she know that Carol was looking for an actress that looked similar to her to play the part of her younger sister in a skit that she was planning for her show. When she saw Vicki’s letter she called her up and asked her to become a part of the cast. Vicki was apparently so shocked when she got the call that she couldn’t say anything and had to hand the receiver to her mother who did all the talking. And that is how Vicki got her big break in Hollywood despite having no previous acting experience or training.

      • Ah, old school Hollywood – they just don’t do it like they used to that’s for sure. Great story – thanks for sharing!

  3. One of the funniest stage farces ever. I saw it twice on Broadway. The film is a desecration.

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