Movie Review

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Dunston Checks In

reviewed by Dr. Barbara Mack Ph.D.

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Self-Help Parent Meter (Scale based on PG-13 films)
0 = Little or none      5 = Great amount or highly

Sex: (1)
Profanity: (0)
Violence: (3)
Fright: (1)

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"Dunston Checks In" (PG) is a light family comedy that will amuse the younger set. Unfortunately, the writers of this script were not creative enough to come up with a non-violent solution to the hero's problem.

The Majestic, an elegant five-star hotel, is the home of its manager Robert Grant (Jason Alexander) and his two sons, Kyle (Eric Lloyd) and Brian (Graham Sack). Since the boys' mother is dead, the hotel's housekeeping and food services help Robert manage the care of his sons. The boys use the hotel as their personal playground, toying with the water fountain and rollerblading in the halls.

Robert is under pressure from the demanding and critical Mrs. Dubrow (Faye Dunaway), one of the hotel's owners, to make the Majestic a six-star hotel. All must be perfect in the hotel, for a secret judge is somewhere in its midst, rating all the services. Perfection is illusive, especially because a thief and an orangutan named Dunston are loose in the hotel.

Kyle befriends Dunston and then convinces Brian to help him hide the smart orangutan from his evil owner, Lord Rutledge (Rupert Everett), and from the mean animal control officer. Chaos reigns as the orangutan roams the chic corridors. The film comes to a rip-roaring conclusion as Robert proves himself a hero to his sons by fighting the bad men and winning.

"Dunston Checks In" is a comedy with no profanity, a few sexual innuendos and some slapstick violence. Children relate to animals, and the orangutan star of this film acts quite human. There are animal-in-peril scenes which most children can handle, although some sensitive young children might be upset.

In this film, as in many recent ones, the mother is dead. What must our children think, when they so frequently see a family without its mother? The thought of losing a parent is extremely frightening, for children know how dependent they are. Repeatedly seeing films with motherless children might cause some children to worry that they, too, might lose their mothers.

A goal for most parents is to teach their children to solve their problems without resorting to violence--a necessary lesson in civilizing our youth. This film does not help parents teach their children non-violent solutions. In the final fight scene, the father tells his sons that he has never before attacked human beings and has just "dropped two." When his son asks him how it feels, he replies, "great." Now that is the kind of lesson that we don't want our children to hear!

"Dunston Checks In" is meant for families and will probably amuse children. Parents might be mildly entertained, although the film is a bit too silly for most adults. If children do see this film, it would be helpful for parents to discuss some of the problematic issues with them.

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