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Heartbreak Hotel is a 1988 American comedy film written and directed by Chris Columbus, and stars David Keith and Tuesday Weld. Set in 1972, the story deals with one of the many "legends" involving Elvis Presley (Keith) about his fictional kidnapping, and his subsequent redemption from decadence.

Heartbreak Hotel
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Produced byDebra Hill
Lynda Obst
Written byChris Columbus
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographySteve Dobson
Edited byRaja Gosnell
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
September 30, 1988
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$13 million
Box office$5.5 million (USA)

The film was shot on location in Austin, Texas at Green Pastures the former residence of John Henry Faulk.



The film opens in 1972 with a single mother and her two children, and a teenage son and nine-year-old daughter, running a boarding house. The mother is hurt in a car accident and hospitalized. As a birthday present, her son and his band drives her Pink Cadillac to Cleveland, Ohio kidnaps her favorite singer, Elvis Presley. He gets the owner of a local pizzeria who looks eerily like Elvis' mother to pose as his mother's ghost as a distraction, and then drugs Elvis with chloroform. Elvis awakens in the boarding house. He and the boy do not get along at first. The boy disrespects Elvis, accusing him of selling out to Vegas. However, the boy and Elvis get to know each other, and they became friends. The film concludes with Elvis playing "Heartbreak Hotel" with the boy's band at the high school talent show.



The film received mixed-to-negative reviews. It currently holds a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 13 reviews;[1] it was also a box office failure.[2]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times stated that "Mr. Columbus, who previously directed Adventures in Baby-Sitting and whose writing credits include Gremlins and The Goonies, sets up this idea well but has no idea where to stop. He pushes the film's slender premise much too far, trying to work miraculous feats of self-improvement upon Johnny, his mother, Marie, and even Elvis himself."[3]

The Washington Post's Rita Kempley wrote, "With such fruity writing, what do overacting and miscasting (Jay Leno would have been perfect) matter? Playing Elvis is like playing a Kennedy, nearly impossible. And Keith, as we know, had mighty big pants to fill. Face it. The King has left the building, gone to that Caesars Palace in the sky. Columbus, say goodbye."[4]

A one-star review came from Roger Ebert who wrote, "Here it is, the goofiest movie of the year, a movie so bad in so many different and endearing ways that I’m damned if I don’t feel genuine affection for it. We all know it’s bad manners to talk during a movie, but every once in a while a film comes along that positively requires the audience to shout helpful suggestions and lewd one-liners at the screen. 'Heartbreak Hotel' is such a movie. All it needs to be perfect is a parallel soundtrack."[5]


Most of the songs contained in the film are actual Elvis Presley recordings despite the film being fictional, with David Keith and Charlie Schlatter performing the title track in the style of the 1968 television special recording.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Klady, Leonard (1989-01-08). "Box Office Champs, Chumps : The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi' - Page 2 - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (1988-09-30). "Movie Review - Heartbreak Hotel - Review/Film; Winning Elvis's Heart (And the Rest of Him) -". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
  4. ^ "'Heartbreak Hotel' (PG-13)". 1988-10-01. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
  5. ^ "Heartbreak Hotel - Reviews". 1988-09-30. Retrieved 2012-06-26.

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