What do you get when you take one part Niles Crane from the long-running series Frasier and combine it with two parts alternate history of Daphne marrying Donny and a complete mental breakdown? The Perfect Host, that’s what.
Just to clear things up before we delve into the meat of the movie, no, this isn’t a movie about a crazy Niles. But it does star David Hyde Pierce in a role that does seem to draw from Niles’ personality – and as you’ll see, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The movie starts off with a fairly low-key getaway sequence as John Taylor (Clayne Crawford), a career criminal, executes a surprisingly well thought out series of steps to avoid drawing the cops down on him in a flurry of military hardware. An unplanned injury, however, leads to some big problems that leave John looking to lay low until the heat dies down.
Enter Warwick Wilson (Pierce), a well-to-do man in the midst of preparing a posh dinner party for his friends. John uses Warwick’s mail to socially engineer himself right through the front door and into his own personal hell.
The Perfect Host starts off a bit slow as it follows John trying to stay one step ahead of the police and smooth-talk Warwick before picking up steam when his impatience with his chatty host leads to his true identity coming out.
Maybe it’s my own personal bias – I love Frasier and Niles is my favorite character – but Pierce steals the scene whether he’s interacting with his party guests or contributing to what I’d imagine is a growing wish on John’s part that he’d just turned himself in. As Warwick he plays the nice guy so well you find yourself rooting for him to win out over the far more crass and abrasive John, ably played by Crawford as a man desperately grasping at control of a situation he lost control of the minute he rang Warwick’s doorbell.
What other cast there is consists mostly of Warwick’s party guests (though none of them are really focused on enough to get a sense of who they are – for good reason) and two cops hot on John’s trail (one of whom is played by Joseph Will, who once upon a time had a role as Niles’ cousin in the fifth season Frasier episode “Beware of Greeks”).
It’s hard to talk about the movie without spilling details that would ultimately ruin the experience of watching it for the first time. Suffice it to say, it’s certainly funny and well worth the time you’ll spend watching it, especially if you happen to be a David Hyde Pierce fan with a perverse desire to see a Niles that has gone completely off his rocker. I will say the character of Warwick seemed a little wooden at first and the pacing seems a little off, but once the movie gets moving you’ll find yourself more than just a little amused as you watch him cheerfully abuse John throughout his posh dinner party.
Verdict: B+. The wooden start of Warwick really put a damper in my initial enthusiasm for the movie, but Pierce’s pitch-perfect delivery once we got to see who Warwick really is won me right back.
Rated R for language, some violent content and brief sexual material.