[Happy 20th Birthday!] Trapped in Paradise (1994)

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Director: George Gallo

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey

Screenplay: George Gallo

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for some rude language.

 

Christmas is just around the corner, so I thought it fitting to jump into the Christmas spirit by talking about a classic (at least on Comedy Central) that came to screens twenty years ago today. I’m talking about a little black comedy called Trapped in Paradise. It stars Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Left Behind) as Bill Firpo, the rightest of the three Firpo brothers, and the only one who can mostly ignore his temptations to commit crimes. His brothers Dave (Jon Lovitz, Happiness, Grown Ups 2) and Alvin (Dana Carvey, Wayne’s World, Jack and Jill) cannot ignore theirs, and are being released from prison due to overcrowding. Bill is begged by his paroled brethren to head to Paradise, Pennsylvania to visit the daughter of an incarcerated friend and ask her to visit her dying father. Bill eventually goes along, and for reason, he is most easily convinced to commit a bank robbery. The bank robbery goes somewhat awry, and the boys are now stuck in the town to a sweltering blizzard hitting town. They must survive being trapped in Paradise. See what I did there?

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Nicolas Cage is just terrible here. He yells and screams and Cages everything in sight. His is one of the most unlikable performances in his career. He thankfully gets outshined by Lovitz and Carvey who provide a few laughs and have good chemistry, but altogether become more of a chorus than active members of the family. They provide a hokey commentary on the events going on without really bearing much weight on the story.

And what’s the deal with this bank robbery? Cage’s character Bill spends most of the film trying to keep his brothers from committing petty theft before being easily swayed into robbing a bank? C’MON! Totally unbelievable and uninspired. Prove it to me, unheard of director George Gallo! Prove it!

I enjoyed some of the tertiary characters in this film. They play as caricatures of picturesque small-town people. If the film were set a bit more to the west, I could call it Minnesota Nice to the extreme.

Director Gallo (Middle Men, Double Take) sleeps through this film. I didn’t find myself swept up in any of the events of the film. His screenplay offers far too few laughs and far too much fluff (and this isn’t good fluff, it is crap covered fluff). Even the cast in the film looks like it isn’t having any fun in this “funny Christmas” film. They referred to it as “Trapped in Bullshit” for the entirety of the strained shoot, and it shows here.

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Part of me is drawn to Trapped in Paradise once every couple years, and when I finish it, I’m still not sure why. The film is dark and unfunny, it isn’t beautifully shot or acted, and it isn’t a plot that I can connect to in the slightest. This film exists somewhere above the Hallmark film releases but dreadfully below most anything else.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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