Movie poster of Noises Off. Most of the cast in silly poses


Title: Noises Off!
Released: 1992

Fix: Theater, Play Within a Play, Gone Too Soon
Platforms: Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime Summary:

The show must go on, regardless of what happens backstage!

Seriously, that’s all you could come up with, Amazon?

FYA Summary:

Adapted from a stage play, Noises Off deals with what goes on backstage in the movie’s play within a play.

Act 1: A frustrated director attempts to lead an exhausted cast through the dress rehearsal of a farcical play. Tempers are short and two romantic triangles are forming. Nonetheless, the show must go on.

Act 2: The show is on the road. Now backstage, we enjoy the play from the cast’s point of view, as they’re torn apart by jealousy and one actor’s drinking problem.

Act 3: Back to the audience’s POV, the actors are now bitter rivals and deliberately attempt to sabotage each other while still trying to put on the show. The audience isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be laughing at.

Epilogue: The show has made it to Broadway. Can they pull it off?

Familiar Faces:

Michael Caine in Noises Off

Michael Caine as Lloyd Fellowes, the director

The bullying director, he’s attempting to put on a production of a zany sex comedy, while also trying to direct Hamlet in another city and carry on affairs with one of his actresses and with his technical director.

Carol Burnett in Noises Off

Carol Burnett as Dotty Otley (Mrs. Clackett)

The original queen of late night sketch comedy, Burnett plays an older actress who’s financially invested in this play and is dating one of her costars. Her comedic timing is spot on as ever.

Character’s acting flaw: cannot remember her blocking

John Ritter in Noises Off

John Ritter as Garry Lejeune (Roger)

The great John Ritter brings his unparalleled ability to pratfall to this movie as Garry, Dotty’s costar and boyfriend. Things begin to fall apart when he suspects her of cheating on him with a fellow cast member.

Character’s acting flaw: wants to chat in the middle of rehearsal; lets personal issues get in the way of the production

Christopher Reeve in Noises Off

Christopher Reeve as Frederick Dallas (Philip/The Sheik)

Reeve gives a rare comedic performance as Philip, a wimpy actor who finds himself the target of Garry’s wrath.

Character’s acting flaw: constantly wants to discuss character background and motivation; randomly gets nosebleeds, cannot improvise

Julie Hagerty in Noises Off

Julie Hagerty as Poppy Taylor, technical director/female understudy

You probably only know her as the ditzy flight attendant from Airplane!, but she does a great job as Lloyd’s unappreciated assistant. In Act 2, as Lloyd desperately tries to hold the production together, she informs him that she’s carrying his child.

Denholm Elliott in Noises Off

Denholm Elliott as Selsdon Mowbray (The Burglar)

Indiana Jones’s sidekick (and the only man who could have saved that Crystal Skull movie) plays Selsdon, a past-his-prime actor playing a past-his-prime burglar. A raging alcoholic, the rest of the cast assumes that every time they can’t find him, he’s passed out drunk somewhere.

Character’s acting flaw: hides whisky around the set; almost completely deaf

Marilu Henner in Noises Off

Marilu Henner as Belinda Blair (Flavia)

The former Taxi star plays Belinda, the cast peacemaker and eternal optimist. She smiles like the bandleader on the Titanic, determined that the show will go on.

Character’s acting flaw: tends to improvise too freely

Nicollette Sheridan in Noises Off

Nicollette Sheridan as Brooke Ashton (Vicki)

I enjoyed this soap star’s portrayal of Brooke, though I can’t really say why. Lloyd’s not so secret girlfriend, she’s unaware that she’s not the only cast member he’s sleeping with.

Character’s acting flaw: constantly loses her contacts, forcing rehearsal to stop as the cast searches for the lens

Mark Linn Baker in Noises Off

Mark Linn Baker as Tim Allgood, stage manager, male understudy, Lloyd’s personal punching bag

Star of a blisteringly unfunny sitcom and some decent peanut butter commercials, Linn Baker isn’t half bad at comical overreaction and physical comedy. He is, of course, outshined by Ritter.

Couch Sharing Capability: High*

It’s a funny, lighthearted comedy. Unless, of course, you’ve ever been involved in the theater in any way, on stage or behind it. Then you’ll remember every missed cue, every botched line, every prop malfunction, every time the audience laughed when they weren’t supposed to or worse, didn’t laugh when they should have. Those experiences never leave you and this movie will bring it all back.

Incidentally, I have no idea how they ever pulled this off as the original stage play. I can’t imagine the logistics.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low

The movie starts off a little slow, but once things get rolling, there’s a lot of subtle little jokes you won’t want to miss. There’s a lot of over the top gags, too, like Tim having to pull cactus needles out of Lloyd’s butt. Instead of drinking, let’s all have a good, old fashioned plate of sardines.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Where Aren’t They Now?

Reeve, Ritter, and Elliott were all gone before their time, but they live on forever in this film. This was a truly talented cast, and while some critics say they didn’t do the play justice, Sandy and I, two old theater veterans, enjoyed it.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.