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Saturday, 7 May 2016

Retro Movie Review: Club Paradise (1986) #RobinWilliams

Club Paradise  
Cast: Robin Williams, Peter O' Toole, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Jimmy Cliff, Twiggy
Genre: Comedy
Estimated Worldwide Gross: over $12 million

Trivia: Bill Murray and John Cleese were originally intended to star, yet in the end, Robin Williams and Peter O' Toole nabbed their roles

Plot: Injured whilst risking his life, a Chicago firefighter retires and moves to a small  Carribean island. Not only must he referee the nerdy bachelors and the bikini-clad young women prowling for a rich husband, but also contend with a simmering local revolution and a pompous colonial governor-general. 

'Harmless -Yet At Not So Memorable & Flawed Cult Comedy Film From The '80s' 

Released in 1986 alongside The Best of Times and Seize The Day, Robin Williams was still finding his feet in the movie world after his transition as a TV star with Mork & Mindy. It wasn't until Good Morning, Vietnam a year later that it became the breakout hit and thus, the movie's success catapulted Robin's status to a high, and he managed to maintain that high level of success, all the way through up until the early 2000s. 

But before Good Morning, Vietnam, there was this light fluff comedy effort with an ensemble cast made up of the likes of fellow comedians, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, as well as Brit performers, Peter O'Toole and Twiggy & Reggae singer, Jimmy Cliff. Rick and Eugene were okay, whilst Peter and Twiggy were marginal at best. The rest of the cast was pretty forgettable. 

Chicago fireman Jack Moniker lives off a big insurance compensation in the Carribean after being injured whilst in the line of duty, leaving him 'permanently and totally disabled', even though he looks in good shape. 

Apparently, this film has been accused of not showcasing more of Robin Williams's comedic talents. This is a good and bad thing. For once, though he is the headlining star of this movie, he doesn't dominate in most of the scenes and thus, allows the other cast members to shine. Is it Robin's best film by far? Undeniably not so. & my favourite pre-Good Morning, Vietnam movie of his is The Survivors, and his performance in that movie, is in my personal opinion, so much better than in Club Paradise, Seize The Day and The Best of Times. It is nice to see that as Jack Moniker, he is so laid-back and chilled out, considering many of the other comedy character roles he has played have been wacky, over-the-top and relying so much on slapstick antics. Not that that is a negative thing because I love fun and wacky Robin. Yet in Club Paradise, this is not the case. As restrained as he is and as promising as he tries, the script is still a chore on his talents. The title itself sounds more like a name for a cocktail than something for a movie. 

Granted, most of his best performances and comedic roles stemmed right after The Best of Times & Club Paradise. Here, he just utters a couple of lines & frolics about bare-chested, though performance-wise, his role doesn't really stretch his acting abilities to the max. His character is somewhat of a charmer, is a nice guy, but compared to the likes of Adrian Cronauer, Genie, Dale Putley of Fathers' Day, Mrs Doubtfire, Peter Pan from Hook, Jack Moniker is not up there with those guys (and with Mrs Doubtfire, gal!). 

Interestingly enough, Robin's Jack Moniker was originally written for Bill Murray, only for Bill to drop out at the last moment; watching Robin's portrayal and mannerisms as this character, his charm, that dry wit and demeanour I could see how and why under that description Murray might have been the better fit for the role. 

I can now understand why Robin didn't enjoy being part of this movie: if you take a look at or watch all of his other movies, he is more or so the main draw and his acting and comedic talents are displayed in full. Yet it is peculiar that though it is not marketed as a Robin Williams film, he comes across as the star attraction, as a) his character is supposedly the central character and b) out of all the stars in Club Paradise, it was Robin who did go on to have the most successful film career. But in this film, he has very little to work with, because the narrative and material doesn't easily lend itself to the humour & his brand of humour and though it is very reserved here, the way he goes about it makes it stuffy and very un-typical Robin -like. If Robin's character Jack is the main character, and he is introduced from the start of this film as one, why not build the movie around that character instead of having it scattered around in different places & jumping from one character to another.

Club Paradise feels a lot less like a movie and more like various and random scenes & sequences with different sets of characters in different scenarios - most of which are one-joke affairs that are painfully unfunny- that are strung together. The so-called shower scene with Mrs White = unfunny. It's like an American version of a Carry On film, but without the silly humour that Club Paradise itself could have and should have benefited more from. There are a number of ideas and situations that occur, but each of them is never fully developed and followed through and the film feels too prolonged & contrived at times. There are trite scenes where Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy's characters are seen ogling some women & making small, dull talk & smoking a joint with various characters. 

There are also moments in this film where it could have been a whole lot better, not forgetting that it was shaky and slow in places too, whilst I was waiting and expecting for the next interesting scene, gag or joke to turn up. It does have an amateurish feel to it, which is usually unheard of by the late Harold Ramis, very thin & it's corny too. The postcard-like scenes made me wince. It feels more like a long, cheap TV sitcom/ SCTV comedy routine, without the audience laughter.  

But for how it handled the plot and subject matter, it was okay though not great. One of my favourite moments was when Jack hosed down the bad guys who tried to infiltrate the club. Other than that, the comedy is both good & bad. Some of it works, some of it doesn't and add to that, it is very inconsistent. 

The premise was interesting, but it is an adequate and okay effort at most. Again, it is Robin Williams I watch this movie for, more so than for the other cast members. There are a few scenes earlier on in the film where he is shirtless, and he looks in good shape too. 

Nonetheless, as I said, Robin has appeared in far better movies, especially comedy movies than Club Paradise and his turn as Jack Moniker is low-key and somewhat, decent at best; the onscreen romance between Jack and Phillipa was so banal and I find it hard to believe that as this character, Robin would turn on the charm as a ladies man. He's had other onscreen romance scenes and most of them, for me, came as being more natural in them as well. This is a movie that is certainly not without its flaws. The ending was a little odd also and one I would have not opted for. 

If you are a Robin Williams fan and expect lots of dialogue and scenes with him in it, you're in for a disappointment. 

Otherwise, it is a harmless, bland, but at best adequate cult movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. The reggae soundtrack is good.

And at worst, it is also one of his less impressive efforts. 

The tagline for this film reads, ''The vacation you'll never forget - no matter how hard you try''...... well, we tried to forget it, and luckily for us, this succeeded. 



- Some clever, dry and amusing one-liners by Robin Williams as Jack Moniker 

- Few scenes with Robin going shirtless, which is a treat for the ladies

- Beautiful setting and scenery

- Good to see a more laid back and chilled out performance by Robin as his character 

- Interesting premise 

- Soundtrack is good 

Cons - 

- By far not one of Robin Williams's best movies 

- Slow in places

- Not your average Robin Williams comedy farce fare, which will disappoint fans of Mork & Mindy, Mrs Doubtfire, Fathers' Day, The Birdcage  

- Not enough of Robin Williams 

- Interesting premise, shame about the execution

- Corny in places and it isn't instantly memorable 

- For a comedy, it is inconsistent and not entirely amusing or funny 

Final Verdict:

A cult comedy movie starring Robin Williams which doesn't take itself too seriously - yet it could have been a whole lot better too. Thankfully, he has delivered better and much more thorough and interesting character performances in his other movies, especially later on in his career. 

The premise was interesting; although the execution of it ranges from okay to bland. The comedy is pretty much hit-and-miss, though mostly it's the latter and the film struggles to attain laughs throughout. 

In all, whilst it isn't instantly & entirely memorable, nor a classic by any means, if you want to see Robin Williams in another one of his earlier and lesser-known on-screen roles right before Good Morning, Vietnam, then Club Paradise is, at most, an adequate and sufficient - if not spectacular effort. Under say someone like John Landis instead of Harold Ramis, I believe he would have nailed the comedy far better than Ramis did and inject some of that craziness from Trading Places here.

However, it is by no means essential viewing or DVD purchase for all Robin Williams fans (unless you are an avid fan and need to add it to your collection) and in all, as a comedy, & despite the star billing, Club Paradise falls flat. 


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