Film review: Splitting Heirs

Published: Sunday, May 9 1993 12:00 a.m. MDT

Monty Python fans know, sadly, that the comic hit "A Fish Called Wanda" was an aberration. More often when you get ex-Pythoners together, the results are along the lines of the dreadful "Yellow- beard" or "Erik the Viking."

So, it's not a big surprise that Eric Idle's "Splitting Heirs," which also features John Cleese in a supporting role, is pretty desperate.

Idle wrote, co-produced and stars in this cheap and sleazy spoof, which crosses "King Ralph" with "Kind Hearts and Coronets" and elements of "The Corsican Brothers" and "The Prince and the Pauper."

"Splitting Heirs" begins with an amusing historical prologue about the cursed genealogy of a titled English family, the Bournemouths, then moves to the present day for a switched-at-birth yarn.

It seems Idle is the real 15th Duke of Bournemouth but as an infant he was accidentally abandoned by his hippie parents. As a result, he became switched with another lost baby.

So, Idle has grown up in the home of a poor Pakistani family (handled as a direct ripoff of Steve Martin's being raised by a black family in "The Jerk"). And crass American Rick Moranis has grown up to inherit Idle's rightful wealth and title.

When Idle makes this discovery, he is not-so-subtly advised by his attorney (Cleese) that the only way to gain his inheritance is to bump off Moranis.

What ensues is a series of supposedly comic murder attempts, none of which is remotely amusing.

Another failed gag has Idle's real-life mother, the duchess (Barbara Hershey, nearly unrecognizable with a blonde wig and heaving bosom, as if she's mocking both Madonna and Dolly Parton), romantically pursuing her own son, though she doesn't know it, of course.

Though rated PG-13, "Splitting Heirs" is loaded with vulgar gags, nudity and sex (there is also profanity and "comic" violence), which would seem more comfortable in an R-rated picture.

Either way, if you must see this movie, my advice is to wait for it to come to the dollar houses. Which won't be long.