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Russia 1927: Impoverished former aristocrat Ippolit (Ron Moody) finds
out that his mother has sued the family treasure into one of their 12
dining room chairs, just to keep the stuff from falling into the hands of
the Communists. Thing is, the chairs are still in their old estate that is
now a retirement home, and the other thing is that mother has also told
Father Fyodor (Dom DeLuise) about the chairs ... and he is quick to forget
his God and look after himself ...
Eventually, Ippolit teams up with street-smart Bender (Frank Langella),
and the two of them find out that only one of the chairs has remained at
the estate - and is promptly stolen by Fyodor - while the others are
scattered all over Russia.
But where to find them ?
To find them, Bender simply breaks into the Bureau for Furniture to
find out who has gotten them, and he even succeeds to send Fyodor on a
wrong trail that leads to Sibiria.
Bender and Ippolit meanwhile try to collect the chairs, finding them in
a furniture museum, a theatre, a circus and finally a chess club. But
while Ippolit's family treasures are bound in none of the chairs, at least
the two of them have found each other.
Mel Brooks has a small role as Ippolit's former servant.
As with most Mel Brooks-comedies (at least from the 1970's), this film
does have a clever premise and its moments of brilliance and features some
very fine comical performances - especially by Ron Moody and Mel Brooks
himself -, but as a whole the film just fails to click: Too often does
Brooks forget his intelligent story and go for the cheap joke or mediocre
slapstick, just to get a few sure fire laughs, and as a result of that,
the film seems somewhat incoherent. Plus, Frank Langella just isn't really
funny, which hurts the film as a comedy because he is the co-lead.
The film isn't all bad though, but considering the clever plot (based
on a Russian novel from the 1920's), it's really a shame that the film
isn't any better.