Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz, and Dana Carvey respectively star as Bill, Dave and Alvin Firpo (sound like the Chipmunks) in Trapped in Paradise. The three brothers rob a small town bank on Christmas Eve, then have a change of heart after a series of odd, laughable misadventures.
Bill manages a restaurant and tries to avoid his brothers, Dave, a professional liar (not much of a stretch for “pathological liar”/SNL alum Jon Lovitz) and Alvin, a kleptomaniac. You can tell Lovitz and Carvey have a blast filming this movie. Dave and Alvin get Bill to go to Paradise, Pennsylvania with them and the three brothers find it hard to leave town once they rob the bank. They experience many unpredictable problems, but the good will of the townspeople and some luck save the three men.
Cage’s character sets up the movie and remains the main protagonist of the story’s action. Carvey plays Alvin as a cute sidekick with an annoying voice and gets the most laughs when he’s not talking, like smugly opening a new box of Cap n Crunch in a store to get the toy. Lovitz picks up some of the slack with funny, sharp quips and combines with Cage on the serious story elements of drama.
George Gallo, serving as director and writer, mistakenly uses high motion camera shots for a feeble attempt at a tense dramatic moment. The rest of the camera work works well except for a confusing sequence at a bus stop which is also badly edited.
Once the characters’ background is established, the story runs a constant loop that follows the three brothers, the police, two of Alvin and Dave’s “buddies”, and two corrupt deputies which all converge together at the climax of the film. The movie has good closure (explanation) of all the elements presented, but some of the storyline may leave the audience dazed and confused. For example, Bill strongly refuses to participate in Dave and Alvin’s scheme to rob the bank. Once Dave and Alvin discover some weapons, Bill suddenly agrees to rob the bank without even a hint that he doesn’t like his job at the restaurant. Bill’s just going along with the story no matter how weak the reasons behind his character’s actions.
Some of the attempts to inject some drama in the story, like an attempted animal rescue and a potential drowning, just don’t work. The noticeable holes in the plot and odd dialogue hurt the movie, but a few of the jokes counterbalanced these faults. Bill’s slow sense of good will provides a weak dramatic theme presented to the audience only at the beginning and the end. A fair amount of entertainment, but a messy work that’s not recommended (*1/2 out of four stars).
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler