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Trapped in Paradise (1994)

by on 2014/12/27

Trapped in Paradise (1994)
“You need a lobotomy.”

* *

Oh dear god, we ruined Christmas this year.

Well . . . technically I guess it was Boxing Day. Either way, it was a night we’ll never forget, however desperately we try, the night we were trapped in Trapped in Paradise.

It was anything but a silent night, as we shouted at the TV, before Gru wandered off to wash the soaking pots from our dinner. I guess I could stuff a turkey pun in here. Whatever, it’s not even worth it, because this holiday debacle was an unholy mess I won’t unwrap again.

She did warn me in advance, although initially I hoped for the best. Just ten minutes in, however, I feared she was correct in her doom-saying. After half an hour, we were shifting in our seats, stir crazy. With forty-five minutes remaining, we scarcely believed this experience was possible.

I had plenty of time to recall a thought which sometimes comes to me, whether anyone involved in what I’m watching lists it on their resume. (Dear Madchen Amick, you were in Twin Peaks, just forget this ever happened.)

The problem is simple: the trio of leads are intolerably unpleasant.

The Firpo brothers are a bunch of ne’er-do-wells, on any level imaginable. Nicolas Cage plays Bill, the angst-ridden heart of the group. Jon Lovitz (Small Time Crooks) barely participates as Dave, the lying schemer. And Dana Carvey “does what he does” as Alvin, a kleptomaniac simpleton.

(The movie is rife with simpletons, in fact, including a mobster, a police chief’s son, a pair of general store workers and deputies. It’s an unfunny cheat in a single character, let alone in five.)

To make a too-long story mercifully briefer, the brothers rob a bank in Paradise, Pennsylvania (actually shot around Ontario), and spend the remainder of the movie trying to escape. Various circumstances conspire to keep them there, until they’re gradually won over by the town’s seasonal spirit.

It’s a Groundhog Day to cull the suicidal.

Every possible subplot here competes for unfunniness: the brothers, mobsters, FBI agents, and filler deputies . . . god damn them, every one.

However a particular Scrooge McGrinch Award must go to Dana Carvey. In a movie with one of Nicolas Cage’s worst performances ever, Carvey is comparatively worse. Beyond his character’s inane behaviour are the actor’s affectations, including a grating interpretation of Bob Dylan high on nitrous. The sound of his voice, his laughter, and his overall twitchiness had us seriously wishing that Alvin would be killed off. His death would have been the most festive miracle of all.

I cannot fathom why he even exists in this story. Entire scenes go on too long, focusing on his antics, never entertaining, nor deepening his character, and rarely in service to the plot.

What’s slightly heartbreaking about it all is I do love Midnight Run, another production by writer-director George Gallo (to say little of Canadian content and seasonal fare). There’s a kernel of possibility here, but it’s buried under crap. And infused with it. And partially made of it.

Ironically the script suggests its own condemnations, with a nearly unprecedented number of quotes leaping to my attention. I’ll leave you with these epigrams from Trapped in Paradise, a twitching, bloated corpse fit only for dumping in an unmarked grave.

  • “Maybe you’re not thinking hard enough.”
  • “You guys are dumber than a box of hair.”
  • “Something tells me I’m really getting jammed.”
  • “Why are you still here?”
  • “This is not going to come around again.”
  • “We didn’t do that, did we?”

* *

Rated PG13 for some rude language [mostly from the viewers]

111 minutes

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