Club Paradise (1986) / Comedy
MPAA rated PG-13 for sexual humor, brief nudity and language
Running time: 96 min.
Cast: Robin Williams, Jimmy Cliff, Peter O'Toole, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Twiggy, Adolph Caesar, Joanna Cassidy, Andrea Martin, Brian Doyle-Murray, Joe Flahery, Steve Kampmann, Robin Duke, Mary Gross
Cameo: Bruce McGill
Director: Harold Ramis
Screenplay: Harold Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray
Review published December 31, 2011
The tagline for Club Paradise reads, "The vacation you'll never forget - no matter how hard you try." Luckily for us, it isn't so hard to forget the movie itself, as it is mostly a time-waster full of talented performers that elicits few laughs and even fewer memorable moments.
Shot in Port Antonio in Jamaica, Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day, Analyze This) directs this mostly unfunny misfire starring Robin Williams (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Cadillac Man) and a troupe of his cronies from "SCTV". In the cast are SCTV's Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters, Spaceballs), Eugene Levy (Splash, Stay Tuned), Andrea Martin (Black Christmas, Wag the Dog), Joe Flaherty (Stripes, 1941), and Brian Doyle-Murray (Modern Problems, Christmas Vacation), who serves as co-screenwriter with Ramis, Robin Duke (I Love Trouble, "SNL") and SNL's Mary Gross (The Couch Trip, Practical Magic).
Also on board is the great Peter O'Toole (Supergirl, My Favorite Year) as the Britain's appointed governor, and hot 1970s sex symbols like Twiggy (The Blues Brothers) and Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner, The Late Show). Given Last but not least, the film co-stars Jimmy Cliff (The Harder They Come, Rude Boy), who contributes many lip-synched stage performances of some of his great music. And Ramis has done this premise similarly before in his classic comedy, Caddyshack. Given the immense talent involved, it's a mystery as to how far it misses the mark in terms of amusement.
Robin Williams stars as Jack Moniker, a Chicago fireman who is injured in the line of duty. He immediately retires with his insurance money, tired of putting life and limb on the line, and heads to the tiny Caribbean island of St. Nicholas. While there, he becomes friends with a local Reggae musician named Ernest Reed, who is being muscled out of the hovel he calls a hotel by St. Nicholas's avaricious prime minister Solomon Gundy ('hilariously' named after the Jamaican hors-d'oeuvre), under the direction of some slimy real estate developers, who has his heart set on converting the island into the ultimate affluent-living destination, and is willing to use the military to stomp out all the cockroaches like Ernest who stands in his way. To combat the takeover, Jack decides to get Ernest's struggling resort off the ground through a big advertising push that likens the place to Club Med, a move that draws in record numbers of mostly American tourists. However, the tourists become as restless as the natives when they discover that 'Club Paradise' is a shabby operation and the island they are on is about to erupt into a small-scale civil war.
Robin Williams doesn't have much of a characterization to work with, so he does what he can in the reserved ad-lib department to give his role the comic edge to (hopefully) drum up some laughs through insulting the various pushy tourists. He gives it what he can, but the balance of the storyline doesn't lend easily to humor when there is an island full of political turmoil and burgeoning civil unrest to contend with. It's just all too dark and cynical to frame such a frothy comedy around. Ramis puts most of his comic efforts into making every one of the tourists portrayed by his comedian cronies find that the island paradise they were expecting falls far short of the mark. The two swinging bachelors (both named Barry) can't seem to score, the bickering married couple encounters calamity, the homely girlfriends are largely ignored, etc. As the sex-starved swingers, Levy and Moranis are the closest thing the film has to characters that could evoke laughter. Sadly, their lightly amusing side stories lack real forethought.
Fans of Williams, "SCTV", or Jimmy Cliff's music will likely be more forgiving, but for those just looking for good laughs, Club Paradise is like the hotel resort itself -- a highly entertaining escape in the advertisements that, once you arrive, offers little you were expecting and finally crumbles from the lack of preparation and adequate upkeep.
©2011 Vince Leo