Niagara Motel (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is another one of those self-reviewing movies. Well, actually, I suppose the basic idea of the film could result in a very good movie or a very bad one: a slice-of-life dramedy about eight down-and-outers in a sleazy low-rent motel in Niagara Falls, Canada. OK, maybe that premise leans toward the sucky side of the street, but good movies have been made with worse concepts.

The self-reviewing item, however, is the DVD box, which states:.

"Tragedy waltzes with comedy in an intense dance of life. The characters are all in personal crisis. They are adrift, as in a fishbowl, where we can observe them thrashing, struggling, and fighting for their lives."

Ah, the dance of life! There was a time when I was young and vital, and I could dance the dance of life, but then tragedy struck. I developed an unnatural fear of life-dances, and could no longer bear to perform in them, or even to watch them, so this film was personally painful for me. Many doctors say this condition is a corollary of my life-threatening allergy to tone-poems, but I don't want to talk about that condition because it is a personal tragedy for me. Throughout all my childhood, I was groomed to be a tone poet, as Mozart was groomed to compose music, and then the allergy struck. Many people say I might have been the Lord Byron of tone poetry. Coupling that with my former title of Lord of the Dance of Life, I could have been the first-ever double lord.

But - alas and alackaday - it was not to be.

I must say, though, that even in my youthful life-dancing prime, I always had a hard time dancing and thrashing at the same time.

But enough about me.

Another "red flag" in the self-review pops up in the form of a blurb: "Darkly humorous ... wonderful performances." The only review they could find with anything positive to say comes from that bastion of cinematic wisdom, Psychologies Magazine. And then there's the ellipsis. What could that "..." represent? Perhaps the original quote read something like this: "It would be darkly humorous and completely ironic of me if I were to claim that this film included any wonderful performances." Maybe it read: "The film aspired to be darkly humorous, and might have achieved it, had it included some wonderful performances."

I kid, and I'm being too nasty to be totally fair. In fact, the performances are fairly solid, although "wonderful" may be a bit extreme. Unfortunately those performers didn't have anything worth performing. If the DVD producers had chosen to use quotes from real reviewers, they would have had to fall back on one of these:


"'I'm in hell!' bleats Anna Friel in the ghastly, dramatic portmanteau Niagara Motel and after an hour or so of this unfunny, untragic criss-crossing crap, which even director Gary Yates has described as 'sprawling', I knew exactly how she felt. Adapted from a series of six plays set in the same motel room, this dishes up prostitution, pornography, death, drug abuse and live burial to no discernible effect whatsoever. Yates explains that 'the film is a comedy' set in 'a haunted house of failed relationships', which perhaps explains why I couldn't figure out whether to laugh, cry or scream. Friel frizzles, Craig Ferguson shambles, Kevin Pollak cruises and the audience slumps en masse. Only the Canadian tax benefit schemes acknowledged in the credits can adequately explain the film's existence."

---The Observer ---


"Yates has given himself so many stories to tell here that his only plausible excuse for Niagara Motel's total lack of dramatic tension or laughs is a script that fails to include a solitary good line."

--- BBC ---


"A blue chip cast is wasted in the painfully unfunny ensemble comedy "Niagara Motel," about a gaggle of self-absorbed nitwits struggling to make ends meet on the Canadian side of the tourist mecca. Pic may check in to undemanding fests for a one-night stand and could shack up with cablers prior to homevid oblivion."

--- Variety ---


And what is the deal with a film which stars gorgeous Caroline Dhavernas as an aspiring porn star and keeps her clothes on? That's just not right, especially given her known willingness to appear all kinds of nekkid on screen.

DVD info

  • Not available in Region 1. These notes refer to the Region 2 DVD from the U.K. (linked above)
  • There are three short featurettes
  • There is no widescreen transfer



The film does have one thing to do a life-dance about: Anna Friel flashes her breasts in one scene, and shows most of her bum in in another.

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus: one star out of four. Telegraph 1/10, Guardian 2/10, Independent 2/10, Times 2/10, Express 4/10, FT 2/10, BBC 4/10.

  • It was nominated for two awards by the Director's Guild of Canada


The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.0/10, based on only 61 votes and a stuffed ballot box. I suppose it should settle in somewhere around 4.5
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our 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. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • 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+. It has some ambition and some decent performances, and there are some signs of real visual imagination. It's just neither very funny nor very interesting.

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