Aunt Agnes vainly tries to force Emily to marry boring Cedric by taking them to Italy and India hoping that Emily will forget about the handsome George.
What must have seemed a great idea in the pub, sending up all those worthy but dull British costume dramas in the style of Airplane! lacks the verve and inspired lunacy of the Zuckers at their best, but at least displays a keen eye for the genre it is satirising.
Set at the height of the British empire, Gary (Leon The Pig Farmer) Sinyor's film has matriarch Aunt Agnes (Scales) inviting stuffy toff Cedric Trilling (Robert Portal) to Ivory Hall, viewing him as a potential suitor for her virginal niece Emily (Cates). Yet, during a skinnydip, Emily is rescued from drowning by hunky pleb George (Pertwee) who is subsequently hired as butler for the family's expedition; first to Italy, then to India where, enjoying the hospitality of a randy plantation owner (Ustinov), George is framed and put on trial for setting fire to the family's pride and joy; the lawn he has slavishly carried from England.
Reminiscent of Mel Brooks' recent offerings. Stiff Upper Lips trades in lame comedy by recognition; while the extended sideswipes are aimed at Merchant Ivory, Sinyor specifically targets Chariots Of Fire, Ghandi, Brideshead Revisited and, bizarrely, Visconti's Death In Venice, yet does little to imbue the parodies with real wit and invention.
Indeed, the film often falls wearily back on puerile Britcom staples to up a flagging chuckle ante. Still, the milieu is evocatively recreated, a strong cast works hard to enliven the proceedings and, as is often the case with such spoofathons, some of the smaller throwaway gags prove much funnier than the overblown set pieces (i.e. corset tightening via a galloping horse). However, you can't escape the feeling it's all been done before, but much better and shorter.
Occasionally good throw away but no humour of substance.