Niagara Motel, the second feature from Winnipeg director Gary Yates (after Seven Times Lucky) tells the story of eight people who stay at or move in and out of Niagara Motel. Niagara Falls is one of the eight wonders of the world and a highlight for tourists but anyone who has visited the Falls know that deeper into the town lie the cheesy stores and run down motels. Yates’ film, based on George Walker’s Suburban Motel plays and co-written by him is set in that run down strip where losers, love-lost couples and hustlers congregate.
Among them are a middle-age love-lost jobless couple (Wendy Crewson and Peter Keleghan) and another (Anna Friel and Kris Holden-Ried) in town to win back the baby they lost to foster care. The motel waitress (Caroline Dhavernas) is scouted by a sleazy hustler (Kevin Pollak) and her boring salesman boyfriend (Tom Barnett). The custodian is a perpetual drunken Scotsman, Phillie Phillios (Craig Ferguson) and the list goes on.
The trouble with Niagara Motel is that Yates or scriptwriter, Walker do not bother to make their characters any likeable. If they are not scratching armpits (the lovely couple) or screaming obscenities at each other (Phillie and his Yugoslav boss), they are out looking for more trouble. If any humor exists, it must be only in the minds of Yates and his cast or lost in the timing. Burying an undead body or jumping over the Falls are not examples of fun. Pollak should have played the hustler as a helpless hopeful that a pathetic irritant. Everything is all wrong in Niagara Falls. And if any of the characters’ paths intersect, it is by chance rather than by careful deliberation of the script.
Just as things get from bad to worse, Yates pulls a cop-out happy ending in the last 5 minutes of the film. Phillie survives his ride over the Falls. After arguing and fighting throughout the film, the childless couple make up with the guy saying (out of the blue) that he needs her. Niagara Motel is the place to stay far away from.