Friday, July 14, 2017

#2,385. Club Paradise (1986)

Directed By: Harold Ramis

Starring: Robin Williams, Peter O'Toole, Rick Moranis

Tag line: "The vacation you'll never forget -- no matter how hard you try"

Trivia: Peter O'Toole replaced John Cleese in the role of Governor Anthony Cloyden Hayes

I hadn’t seen Club Paradise in what must be 25 years, yet my opinion of it has not changed one iota: the movie is sporadically funny, but with such a talented cast it should've been much better.

After being injured on the job, Chicago fireman Jack Moniker (Robin Williams) receives a large insurance settlement from the city, enough money for him to retire and move to the Caribbean island of St. Nicholas. Once there, Moniker befriends musician Ernest Reed (Jimmy Cliff), who owns (and performs at) a popular night club. 

Unfortunately, Ernest is a bit behind on the club’s taxes, and the Prime Minister of St. Nicholas, a man named Solomon Gundy (Adolph Caesar), is demanding that they be paid immediately. To help Ernest, Jack pays the back taxes, and together the two pals, along with Jack’s new British girlfriend Phillipa (Twiggy), turn Ernest’s hot spot into a tropical resort, which they call “Club Paradise”.

Before long, Club Paradise is welcoming it’s first-ever guests: Dr. Randy White (Steven Kampmann) and his wife Linda (Andrea Martin); business partners Barry Nye (Rick Moranis) and Barry Steinberg (Eugene Levy); co-workers Mary Lou (Robin Duke) and Jackie (Mary Gross); and Terry Hamlin (Joanna Cassidy), travel writer for the New York Times. As Jack works frantically to fix some of Club Paradise’s bigger problems (no running water, bug infestations, etc), the guests settle in, determined to have the vacation of a lifetime.

Unbeknownst to them all, Prime Minister Gundy is conspiring with Volt Zerbe (Brian Doyle-Murray), owner of the largest hotel on St. Nicholas, to sell the entire island to an Arab Prince. When Jack and Ernest refuse to turn Club Paradise over to him, Gundy uses every means at his disposal to drive them out of business, and not even Anthony Croyden Hayes (Peter O’Toole), the British Governor of St. Nicholas, can stop him.

Just look at that cast: Robin Williams, Peter O’Toole (who proved he could be funny in films like The Ruling Class and My Favorite Year), Brian Doyle-Murray (who also co-wrote the script), Robin Duke (Saturday Night Live), as well as four former cast members of SCTV (along with Martin, Moranis, and Levy, Joe Flaherty makes a brief appearance as the slightly odd pilot of a small plane). That’s an all-star comedy team right there. In addition, Jimmy Cliff provides a handful of cool Reggae tunes, and Adolph Caesar hams it up to perfection as the shifty politician looking to get rich.

Together, these actors and actresses manage to generate a few laughs; Moranis and Levy, as two very Jewish playboys on the prowl, have their moments, as does Robin Williams, whose rapid-fire delivery occasionally hits the mark (especially during the opening scene set in Chicago). There’s also a scene involving a helium tank that had me laughing out loud, and I got the distinct impression while watching Club Paradise that the cast had a great time making it (and why not? Most of the movie was shot on-location in beautiful Jamaica).

But it wasn’t enough. For every funny scene, Club Paradise had two that went absolutely nowhere (i.e. - an extended sequence in which the guests visit a nude beach), and some cast members were woefully underused (Peter O’Toole, Joe Flaherty, Joanna Cassidy).

I really wanted to love Club Paradise. In the end, though, it was, at best, a “middle-of-the-road” comedy; it made me laugh, but not as much as it should have.

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