Moon Over Parador (1988) / Comedy-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sexuality, language, and violence
Running Time: 103 min.

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, Jonathan Winters, Fernando Rey, Michael Greene, Polly Holliday, Milton Goncalves, Charo, Dana Delany, Paul Mazursky, Dick Cavett (cameo), Edward Asner (cameo), Sammy Davis Jr. (cameo)
Director: Paul Mazursky

Screenplay: Leon Capetanos, Paul Mazursky
Review published March 7, 2006

Moon Over Parador is an amiable farce, although not quite a successful one.  It does sport a tremendous amount of robust energy, mostly provided by its very capable star, Dreyfuss (Nuts, Stakeout), who delivers above and beyond the call of duty in trying to squeeze some laughs into a premise that has only one real hook.  To his credit, he does manage to actually gain a few extra chuckles from his manic performance, but the weakness in the material eventually does show, and Mazursky's (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Moscow on the Hudson) attempt at a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1920s and 30s replaces wit and panache with fits of desperation. 

Dreyfuss plays a talented New York actor named Jack Noah, who has had a nice small-time career, albeit not quite successful enough to make him truly famous.  His latest job takes him to the (fictional) South American country of Parador, where his uncanny ability to perform his impersonation of the ruling dictator there, President Alphonse Simms, eventually lands him the role of his life when Simms suddenly dies.  Simms' right-hand guy, a scheming strong-arm named Roberto Strausmann (Julia, Eyes of Laura Mars), senses a revolt happening among the people should they find out that Simms is dead, so he coerces Jack into assuming the identity of Simms to bide some time until a solution can be found.  Jack is a success, although he eventually overreaches his bounds with the power that comes with the position, and Roberto isn't too pleased about that in the slightest.

There are some funny bits here, as well as some inspired, but all in all, Moon Over Parador proves to be too mixed in its styles to call a truly good comedy.  As mentioned previously, Dreyfuss is a whiz, meshing in perfectly with the kind of goofiness that Mazursky had in mind.  Mazursky also put a lot of himself into the film as writer-director, and literally puts himself in as Simms' mother, although most people may not quite get the joke if they don't recognize Mazursky (apparently Mazursky cast himself at last second when he couldn't find a suitable actress for the part in time).  Raul Julia and Sonia Braga (The Rookie, Angel Eyes), generally considered dramatic actors, reunite after Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and both show that they can play comedy very well.

Alas, despite the enthusiastic performances, Moon Over Parador lacks that sense of comic momentum that allows us to hop on for the wild ride until the end.  Some of the social commentary is light, but very welcome, particularly in how it sees banana republics embrace dictators with the facade of democracy, while the US government plays an active role in assuring its own rights in the mix in a tit-for-tat kind of way that doesn't exactly help the people of that country.  Perhaps if Mazursky could decide between satire, farce, or romantic comedy, things wouldn't prove as uneven as they do.  It's a fits-and-starts comedy that one remembers for some clever bits, but ultimately, the energy expended by the performers seems to exceed the quality of the material.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo