Four Rooms (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It doesn't happen often, but there are films that succeed both with critics and at the box office. Schindler's List is an example. Then there are films which succeed with critics but lack box office punch, like The Sweet Hereafter. There are plenty of films loved by the masses and excoriated by the pundits. Big Momma's House did about $120 million at the domestic box office, for example.

And then there are the films universally despised by one and all. Negative reviews from all major print sources. $4 million at the box office. What more is there to say?

Four Rooms is a loosely connected series of vignettes. The stories take place in four different rooms of a big city hotel. The four episodes were helmed by four different directors, and are unified by the presence of a Jerry Lewis-like bellhop.

The bellhop in question is Tim Roth. Yup, when you think of comedy, you think of Tim.  Unless Jeremy Irons is available. Or Robert Lansing. Or former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert "Shemp" McNamara. Or the prophet Ezekiel - funny guy. I suppose Tim's performance may be appropriate for comedy in the Aristotelean sense, but Aristotle never really packed them in at the Athens Improv, not even after they removed the two hemlock minimum. Even Sophocles got more laughs.


Ione Skye and Sammi Davis are topless in segment 1.
Roth demonstrates the age-old comedy reasoning that when there is no humor in the script, it may be easily manufactured with a funny face (The Jerry Lewis/Larry Storch school of comedy) or a wacky trip over some furniture (the John Ritter/Dick van Dyke school).

Silly drunk-acting schtick (the Foster Brooks/Dudley Moore school) is always a time-honored piece of comedy gold as well, although Roth couldn't do that here because one of the characters did it in one of the skits (Quentin Tarantino himself). But Roth did enough mugging for the camera that no fake hiccups were necessary.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85:1

  • no features

In all fairness, the last two segments, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, are not complete abominations. In fact, the Rodriguez segment is pretty darned good. Unfortunately, you'll never make it there. It is not humanly possible to watch the first two episodes, so you will have shut off the DVD player and broken out Pictionary before you ever see the last two.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4, 2/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: It lost money despite a modest budget of $4 million. Gross $4 million.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D+. Good enough production values, but not much else.

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