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The Rosebud Beach Hotel
(1984)

Director: Harry Hurwitz  
Cast:
Coleen Camp, Peter Scolari, Christopher Lee


Several times, in previous reviews I have written for this web site, I have stated that I would like to take a vacation. And at the same times, I have stated that I would have long ago taken a vacation if it weren't for my required duties at my place of employment, as well as the duties I have with maintaining this web site. One day, perhaps. Until then, I will spend my time imagining what I would do if I were to go on a vacation. There are so many fun things you can do on a vacation. I know that for sure, because I look on the vacations I took with my family when I was very young with great fondness. Obviously, one of the treats of a vacation is to be in a new and completely different place from where you live. And doing new and fun things in that new location can certainly be very entertaining. Also, when people are on vacation, more often than not they don't cook for themselves and instead go to restaurants. I find it very pleasurable to eat various new dishes and not have to slave over a hot stove and wash dishes afterwards. There is another vacation thrill that I remember being a lot of fun whenever I took a vacation, and that was staying at a motel or a hotel. There were so many things about the accomodation process that I found could not be beat. The beds were usually a lot more comfortable than the bed back at home. And you would get fresh clean sheets to sleep between each and every night. Another perk was when you had to use the bathroom; you could use as much hot water that you'd like, and you didn't have to worry about keeping the bathroom clean, since a maid the next morning would do all the cleaning for you.

With all my pleasurable experiences staying at hotels and motels during my life, you might think that the idea of working at such establishments would have a lot of appeal. I certainly thought so for a long time. Several years ago, when I was out of work and seeking employment, I applied for a couple of hotel jobs. I can remember the interview process at these hotels being tough and having to think quickly on my feet. One question I was asked was, "What would you do if an angry customer came to the front desk complaining that his television wasn't working?" Well, I like to think that I came up with pretty good answers to that and the other questions, but ultimately I wasn't hired, to my great resentment. Though to my pleasure and relief several years later, I saw both of those hotels declare bankruptcy and shut their doors. I say "relief", because over the years that followed, it slowly dawned on me that working at a hotel or a motel can be pretty tough employment. The problems that can come up during the job seem endless, most of them having to do with the customers who stay there. You might have the unpleasant task of quieting down loud and boisterous guests who are disturbing the other guests, and might also damage their hotel room. You have to risk towels and other hotel property being stolen by the guests. You have to be alert for customers who might have one or more of thousands of potential complaints, and have to deal and solve their problems right on the spot. And you have to make sure that you and your fellow employees are on the ball and constantly maintaining the entire enterprise at a high level.

There's no doubt about it - to me at least, working at a hotel or a motel would not be a very good job to have. If I were ever to be out of work again, I would not apply for work at such establishments unless I had exhausted every other employment possibility. However, though I don't find The Rosebud Beach Hotelemployment at a hotel or motel to be desirable, that doesn't mean that I find the idea of a fictional look at work at such places a turn off. In fact, I find the idea of a story set around a hotel or motel full of possibilities. With problems like those that I detailed in the previous paragraph, a writer has a deep well of ideas to scoop up. And not just in a serious vein - a comedy writer could come up with many comic ideas set at a hotel or a motel. That's why I felt The Rosebud Beach Hotel had a lot of potential when I found a copy of it. In the opening of the movie, we are introduced to two young people, Elliot (Scolari, Bosom Buddies) and Tracy (Camp, Wayne's World). They are a couple in love, which does not sit well with Tracy's millionaire father Clifford King (Lee, The Lord Of The Rings), because he thinks that Elliot simply doesn't have the right stuff that would make him a suitable man for Tracy. So Clifford hatches a scheme. He offers Elliot the job of running a Florida hotel he owns, the hotel mentioned in the movie's title. Elliot accepts the job, which secretly delights Clifford. That's because The Rosebud Beach Hotel is an establishment on its last legs, and Clifford feels that when Elliot fails to maintain it, the failure will make Elliot look less desirable to Tracy. What Clifford does not know is that Tracy accompanies Elliot to the hotel, and when the hotel's former manager Harold Forfman (Chuck McCann, Hamburger: The Motion Picture) gives the lovebirds a tour of the place, they quickly see what they are up against - inept desk clerks and maids, a wacko maintenance man, and weird hotel residents that include a spaced-out nerd (Eddie Deezen, Grease), a muscleman, and a hooker (Fran Drescher, The Nanny). Despite being faced with all these inept eccentrics, Elliot and Tracy get to work to improving the hotel and the lives of its residents. Surprisingly, they start to make some progress, but it may not matter, since Clifford meanwhile has hired a guy by the name of "Matches" Monohan to burn down the hotel in order to collect the insurance.

If you are thinking that a lot of The Rosebud Beach Hotel's plot setup sounds extremely familiar, you are correct, even if like me you can't immediately recall exactly what movies and television shows you've seen this stuff before. A lot of what happens in this movie won't come as a surprise, but there is something about this rehash that will be surprising to most viewers, and that's how lazy the movie often is when it comes to illustrating the details. Take the opening of the movie for instance. You would probably expect the movie to first clearly illustrate how the character of Elliot is a classic ne'er-do-well kind of guy that doesn't please his prospective future father in law, and at the same time showing how he has all the same managed to charm the lady in his life to loving him. But that's now what happens. Instead, at the beginning of the movie we see the lovebirds meet, very briefly discuss the offer that Tracy's father has given Elliot, Elliot subsequently telling Clifford over the phone in just a few words that he will take the job, and then the lovebirds are suddenly in Florida - all of which happens before the first five minutes of the movie have passed. When they get to the hotel, Elliot calls the place a "dump" before he has fully inspected the establishment. Later on, after several days have passed, Tracy makes a comment to Elliot that so far he has "handled everything with authority" - but we never actually got to see Elliot do anything that would be considered a change in management or commanding the employees of the hotel to do their jobs differently. As you can see from these examples, the movie quite often simply doesn't show us many of the necessary details that we expect of a story of this nature. It's as if the three credited screenwriters thought, "Well, the audience has more or less seen this same story before, so we don't have to include everything - they can fill in the missing spaces themselves from what they've seen before."

The apparent laziness of the screenwriters certainly makes some noticeable gaps in the story, but most of all with the characters of the movie. We don't get to see the character of Elliot transform from an inept sort of fellow to someone who finally manages to prove himself. In fact, it's the character of Tracy who seems to do all the work in improving the hotel. The question comes up early on as to why the movie thinks we should be watching Elliot instead of Tracy. This weakly written character may explain why Scolari gives a pretty unimpressive performance - he simply doesn't have much to work with. Camp, on the other hand, does show some spark when her character is pushed by certain circumstances, though for the most part her character isn't that much more dimensional than Scolari's. It doesn't take long for the audience to look for fleshed-out characters with the supporting cast instead of the leads, though there isn't a terrible lot there. Eddie Deezen is somewhat amusing doing his trademark geeky character he's done in countless other movies, though he only has a few brief scenes. A pre-fame Fran Drescher is actually quite good as a hooker with charm and a sense of humor, and her scenes are the best ones in the movie. No doubt you are wondering about Christopher Lee, especially since he didn't appear in a great deal of comedies during his career. But Lee is totally wasted. In the first hour of the movie, his appearances can't add up to more than a minute of the running time. Even when you add in his subsequent appearances in the movie's last half hour, it's pretty clear that all of his scenes were knocked off in two or three days of shooting at the most.

In case you are wondering, Lee does try, in the first scene at least, to generate some laughs. But the attempt at humor falls flat, and the remainder of the movie doesn't get that much better when it comes to comedy, even when you add the contributions of Deezen and Drescher. While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking the words, "wasted potential". There could have been a number of funny ways that the characters of Elliot and Tracy could have drummed up business for the hotel. But as it turns out, we only see one of the things they do to increase business, and that is to hire hookers to act as bellhops. Now, seeing these ladies of the night in action in new roles could have been funny, but surprisingly it mostly treated in a matter-of-fact manner, almost seriously. In fact, a lot of the movie plays in a manner where a feeling of seriousness is just about bubbling to the surface. So even when the movie makes a feeble attempt at humor - introducing an eccentric character, focusing on the subplot on "Matches" Monohan's attempts to destroy the hotel, etc. - it never really feels all that much fun. It also doesn't help that the movie often has a really low rent feeling around it. Director Harry Hurwitz (Fairy Tales) actually did manage to shoot much of the movie at an actual hotel, which helps a little, though the cheap-looking hotel guest rooms are painfully and obviously shot on soundstages. Hurwitz seems to know that the screenplay was mighty thin, since on several occasions he stops the thin story in order to pad things out with such stuff as rock-n-roll chambermaids singing rock numbers, or scenes of the female members of the cast taking their clothes off. But as much as you may enjoy the sight of gorgeous women in the nude, the surrounding material is so lazy, so unenthusiastic, that even the scenes of T & A won't perk up your interest to a significant degree. An overnight stay at a Motel 6 has more interest and laughs than the entire eighty-two minutes of The Rosebud Beach Hotel.

(Posted August 8, 2015)

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See also: Hot Chili, Hot Resort, Zoo Radio

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