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Film / Splitting Heirs

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Splitting Heirs is a 1993 British comedy film written by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame and directed by Robert Young.

Tommy Patel (Eric Idle) is an average man living in West London with a Hindi family. An American by the name of Henry Martin (Rick Moranis) visits from New York and he and Tommy have a night on the town, leading to them becoming good friends, with Tommy soon discovering Henry is actually a noble, the heir to the Duchy of Bournemouth.

Tommy soon learns from his mother that he was adopted after accidentally being left behind in a restaurant as a baby, and begins to suspect that he's the rightful Duke. Tommy begins to search for evidence to prove his birthright, he meets several odd characters such as his promiscuous birth mother Lucinda (Barbara Hershey), Henry's beautiful fiancée, Kitty (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the comically evil lawyer Raoul P. Shadgrind (John Cleese), causing hilarity to ensue in the process!


Provides Examples Of:

  • Accidental Pervert: While looking for clues about his birth in the Bournemouth, Tommy accidentally gets stuck in Lucinda's room while she's getting dressed. She notices him hiding, and grabs the hidden in her dresser to threaten him, but calms down once she notices it's him. She still thinks he's a pervert, but one who is after her and promptly tries to sleep with him.
  • Amoral Attorney: Shadgrind, the attorney Tommy hires to look into his claim as of Bournemouth, is a comically evil and is quick to suggest and convince Tommy to "dispose" of Henry in order to take his title. He even takes to trying to assassinate Henry with his own hands, even after Tommy gave up on it.
  • Bathroom Break-Out: When Henry (and some reporters) almost catch Lucinda trying to seduce Tommy, they avoid getting caught by Lucinda throwing him out via the bathroom window.
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  • Becoming the Mask: Kitty is just a Gold Digger who seduces Henry in order to be his Trophy Wife, but she later falls in love with him for real, much to Tommy's distress.
  • Black Comedy: Much of the film's humor comes from Tommy's comical failed attempts at Henry's life.
  • Blue Blood: The Duke of Bournemouth are a fictional noble family that is part of the British royalty in this film.
  • Born Lucky: To contrast to the Bournemouth family who is said to be cursed with unlucky Butt Monkeys, Henry is incredibly lucky, starting with the fact he got Switched at Birth into a rich noble family. He survives the many attempts on his life mostly via this luck.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Lucinda used to be a Love Freak hippy back in The '60s, and even now years later she still has some of those traits, even if she looks like a dignified Duchess.
  • Brainless Beauty: Tommy's birth mother Lucinda was one in her youth, being a beautiful but a ditzy Fashion Model who forgets about her baby son while partying. She's less so in her old age, it's implied that her losing Tommy as a baby made her more mature.
  • Chair Reveal: When Tommy is shocked when he goes to meet his company's chairman, only to find out it's Henry when he does a sudden dramatic chair spin.
  • Character Narrator: Tommy is The Protagonist as well as the narrator of the film.
  • Closet Shuffle: Henry does an impromptu visit to Kitty's apartment the morning she slept with Tommy, forcing him to have to hide in her closet.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Henry might have shades of this, considering that he is often seen on roller-skates, and he wasn't aware of Tommy's attempts at killing him.
  • Comforting the Widow: Inverted with Lucinda, who flirts and tries to seduce Tommy while still wearing her widow's outfit.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The whole plot of the film involves the incredible coincidence that two kids who got Switched at Birth would end up meeting again as adults, while working at the same company.
  • The Corrupter: Amoral Attorney Shadgrind is the one to one who convinces Tommy to try to kill Henry in order to take his title.
  • Crash into Hello: Henry and Tommy's first meeting involves the latter crashing into the former with his roller-skates.
  • Double Entendre: When Tommy compliments Kitty's "riding skills" to Henry, his tone makes it clear he's talking about both her equestrian and bedroom prowess, although Henry remains clueless.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Lucinda does this when threatening the hidden Tommy, who she thinks is a pervert who snuck into her room.
  • Easily Forgiven: At the end of the film Henry forgives all of Tommy's many attempts on his life and for having slept with Kitty.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Henry is a rich CloudCuckoolander who gets away with his bizarre behavior because of his vast fortune.
  • Erotic Eating: Lucinda does this with her vitamins to tease Tommy, eating them slowly and coyly, while rubbing them on her cleave or lips.
  • Ethical Slut: Henry's fiancée (and later in the movie, wife) Kitty, as she says that "sex before marriage is exciting" after having an affair with Tommy. Since Kitty's aware that Tommy was trying to kill Henry, she tells Tommy that she's pregnant with his (actually Henry's) baby to keep her husband safe.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Tommy's clumsy attempt to establish an alibi by drawing attention to his presence on a train back to England from France, includes playing La Marseillaise on the bagpipes.
  • Friends with Benefits: Kitty confesses to Tommy that she only slept with him so she could have one last affair before being married and picked him due to them being good friends and knowing he wouldn't rat it out to Henry.
  • Gold Digger:
    • It's heavily implied Lucinda only married to the Duke for his money, as she has few good things to say about him.
    • Kitty is only interested in marrying Henry for the money and status that comes with being a Duchess. But grows to actually love him and is terrified when she thinks Tommy is trying to kill him.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Once Tommy discovers he is the long-lost son of Duke of Bournemouth that got Switched at Birth, he grows increasingly jealous of Henry thinking that he "stole his life", which is what leads him to his decision to try to kill Tommy.
  • Happily Adopted: Tommy is the lost son of a British noble family who was Switched at Birth. He has been brought up by an East-Indian family who see nothing odd in their paler-skinned son speaking with a cut-glass upper-class British accent, wearing pinstripe suits, and going to work as a stockbroker every morning - despite being brought up Asian.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: When Henry arrives unannounced at Kitty's apartment the morning after she slept with Tommy, she promptly kicks Tommy out of bed, giving him no time to put his clothes on, and he has to sneak out of Kitty's apartment naked while clutching his clothes to his crotch, which is played for laughs when he happens to run into Kitty's neighbor, who is scandalized.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Henry's reaction to the striptease dance at his stag night.
  • Helium Speech: On Tommy's 4th on-screen attempt to get Henry out of the way, he puts helium in Henry's scuba tank, making the latter speak in a squeaky voice.
  • Hippie Name: Tommy's birth name is Thomas Henry Butterfly Rainbow Peace Martin. Keep in mind he was born in The '60s.
  • Incest-ant Admirer: Downplayed and Played for Laughs with Tommy's biological mother Lucinda, who becomes attracted and relentlessly pursues Tommy, but is unaware she is actually his mother. He knows and is properly disgusted by the idea.
  • In the Blood: The long line of Dukes of Bournemouth have all been Butt Monkeys who suffer ignoble fates, such as dying from a donkey bite.
  • Karma Houdini: Shadgrind (John Cleese), who causes the deaths of several bystanders in an attempt to bump Henry off almost gets his comeuppance when an escaped cougar lunges at him as he's escaping. However before he can be maimed, he is inexplicably saved by some French bicyclists in an upside-down car. The epilogue then states how he became a Hollywood producer.
  • Kavorka Man: Tommy is a Clueless Chick-Magnet who gets the romantic attention of two rich Head-Turning Beauty despite him not being attractive, being working-class and not even attempting to flirt or seduce said women, as they are the ones who pursue him instead.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: A Running Gag in the film is that most Brit characters look down on sex and promiscuity, with Shadgrind mocking the very notion that Americans like having sex for "pleasure". The American Lucinda (who is considered a Black Sheep to the Brit family she married into due to her promiscuity) states the belief that all Brits are terrible lovers with a Lie Back and Think of England attitude to sex, and thinks that it is a wonder they ever reproduce. As a result, she constantly cheated on her Brit husband while he was alive, and in one scene says he was not only awful in bed but also had a Teeny Weenie.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Kitty becomes pregnant after marrying Henry, and claims to Tommy that she's sure the child is his. But this is later revealed to be a lie, and she claims she lied because she was trying to dissuade Tommy from killing Henry.
  • Mean Boss: Tommy gets the job to babysit Henry in London simply because his boss doesn't like him and enjoys overworking him.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Tommy has a bedsheet covering his waist when we see him the morning after he sleeps with Kitty.
  • Monochrome Past: All of The '60s flashbacks scenes are in black-and-white.
  • Ms. Fanservice:
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Amoral Attorney Shadgrind doesn't think Tommy's claim as a Duke of Bournemouth long lost son is very strong, but since Henry has no heirs and the House of Lords wants to maintain the title, he thinks he can make a case for it if Henry were to die, and convinces Tommy to Make It Look Like an Accident.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Lucinda has this reaction when she realizes she lost baby Tommy while partying.
    • When Tommy believes he's finally killed Henry. It turns out that Henry survived, but the guilt of the moment causes Tommy to abandon his murder schemes.
  • National Stereotypes: The movie's character mocks the British Stuffiness stereotypes of them being uptight and mean.
  • Never My Fault: Near the end of the movie, Tommy's birth mother Lucinda, who has been chasing him throughout, discovers his identity, then slaps him and accuses him of "trying to seduce your mother", when it was clearly the other way around.
  • No Name Given: Tommy's biological father is never named, and is only credited as the "14th Duke of Bournemouth" and characters never use his name when talking about him.
  • Not so Dire: When we hear that Kitty's gone into labor, the scene cuts to Tommy and Henry wearing surgical masks and sweating over a nerve-racking procedure, which turns out to be opening a rare bottle of champagne in a pub. Shortly after they get it open, they get a phone call telling them the baby was born.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Played for Laughs with Tommy, who was adopted by an Indian family living in London as an infant and grows up to be blond and blue-eyed but is still stunned when his family breaks the news to him.
    Tommy: Y-you mean I'm not really Asian?
  • Pair the Spares: Tommy spends most of the film lusting after Kitty, and wanting to take Henry's place as her husband. At the end of the film when he accepts that they're now Happily Married, he's paired off with his secretary in the epilogue, even though she only showed up for a scene or two.
  • Parental Neglect: Tommy got Switched at Birth because his hippie parents forgot about him while they were partying. Lucinda was properly horrified about it, but Tommy's dad didn't think much of it, and simply picked up the baby Henry, even knowing it wasn't his son, just to avoid embarrassment. Even as an adult, Henry doesn't have nice things to say about Tommy's biological father (who raised him) but he did become a Momma's Boy.
  • Pillow Pistol: Played With. Lucinda has a gun hidden in her bedroom, but it's in her dresser in jewelry box, not under her pillow.
  • Police Are Useless: Despite Tommy's many attempts on Henry's life, the police never get involved. They only do it once he gives up on killing Henry, and start to suspect Tommy even though he's innocent and Shadgrind is the one behind the assassination attempts.
  • Really Gets Around: Lucinda is considered the Black Sheep in the family due to her promiscuity, especially back in The '60s. Kitty claims she's a "real Maneater".
  • Rollerblade Good: Henry is first seen on rollerblades and will be seen with them once in a while throughout the movie, usually bumping into people or weirding them out.
  • Skinny Dipping: The first thing Tommy sees when he wakes up after sleeping with Kitty, is her swimming nude in her indoor pool in her luxurious bedroom, and the scene ends with a gratuitous Sexy Surfacing Shot before she puts on a bathrobe and greets him.
  • Sex Goddess: After sleeping with Kitty, we see Tommy waking up in her bed, still worn out, with Messy Hair and one of his arms still tied to the bedpost. She walks in looking no worse for the wear and smugly teases him about how he's slept for hours due to her keeping him up all night.
    Tommy: Kitty, you were magnificent.
    Kitty: [smugly] I known.
  • Sex Is Evil: A Running Gag is that most Brit characters look down on sex and promiscuity. The American Lucinda is even considered the Black Sheep of the Bournemouth family due to her being prosmiscous. She herself mocks this attitude claiming that all Brit are terrible lovers with a Lie Back and Think of England attitude to sex, and thinks that it is a wonder they ever reproduce.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: When Kitty and Tommy sleep together, the scene cuts away just as she climbs on top of him in bed and they start kissing. When we next see them, it's already the morning after.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot: There's a shot of Kitty's Toplessness from the Back as she steps out of her luxurious bedroom pool that she was Skinny Dipping in
  • Silver Fox: Lucinda may be old with silver hair, but she's still incredibly attractive and still dresses in revealing clothing that makes her a Ms. Fanservice.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Tommy has a strong resemblance to his biological father, which his biological mother Lucinda recognizes.
  • Surprise Incest: Lucinda becomes attracted to Tommy due to his resemblance to her old husband, unaware that he is actually her son. When she finds out she's pissed at him for "trying to seduce your mother", even though she was the pursuer.
  • Switched at Birth: Downplayed as Tommy and Henry were at least a few weeks old when they were switched.
  • Teeny Weenie According to Lucinda, Tommy's father was both underendowed and a terrible lover. Which is why she cheated on him so much.
  • Toilet Humour: When Tommy jumps out of a train, he just so happens to land face-first into a pile of cow's manure.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Lucinda compares her late husband's Teeny Weenie to a badger.
    Lucinda: You remind me of my late husband. He was hung like a badger.
    Tommy: Really? ...Is that good?
    Lucinda: Only if you're a badger.
  • Upper-Class Equestrian: Both Henry and Kitty are equestrian, while the working-class Tommy doesn't even know how to ride a horse.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: The climax has Tommy attempting to save Henry's life after Shadgrind sabotaged his car and put a bomb in it. But Henry's luck strikes again, and the car got stolen, so the thief ended up blowing up instead.
  • Would Hurt a Child: After Henry and Kitty's infant son is born, Shadgrind places a bomb in the baby carriage in an attempt to kill the child, but it killed the nanny instead.