Nicolas Cage in: Trapped in Paradise

Trapped in Paradise

Released in 1994 ▪ Review posted September 14, 2014

“…[I]t should be preserved by the Library of Congress, as an example of creative desperation. It plays like a documentary about a group of actors forced to perform in a screenplay that contains not one single laugh, or moment of wit, or flash of intelligence, or reason for being.”

Roger Ebert on Trapped in Paradise

Trapped in Paradise is not good. It was written and directed by George Gallo, a name that should only elicit the response: “Who?” He is the guy who wrote Bad Boys II. Here’s an example of the kind of writing in Bad Boys II.

Although Trapped in Paradise is supposed to be a comedy—you can tell because it stars Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey, and his majesty—George Gallo is unfortunately comedy tone-deaf. The film is written as a caper about three not-quite-reformed convicts who hold up a small-town bank on Christmas Eve. A series of not-quite-entertaining police chases mixed with not-quite-funny banter ensues. Eventually the spirit of Christmas prevails, the townspeople forgive all transgressions, and Nicolas Cage makes out with the token pretty girl (cue Liz Lemon).

The mid-’90s was a prime time for lazy Hollywood crapola like Trapped in Paradise, so it comes as no surprise that virtually no one involved has fond memories of the production. Lovitz refers to the film as “Trapped in Shit” and feels the majority of the blame belongs to Gallo, whose idea of directing was apparently to tell Cage, Carvey, and Lovitz to just do whatever they wanted. Lovitz speaks fondly of his co-leads, saying that during filming Nic Cage even stepped up to stage a complex scene that Gallo refused to guide.

When Nic finds himself on set in a directionless void, he sometimes ends up derailing what was already careering off the tracks. Here you can see in his eyes he’s desperately trying to keep everything together so the final product will be light, fun, and funny. Even Roger Ebert noted, “The first scene had Nicolas Cage in it, which was a hopeful sign.” I actually feel sorry for Nic. He’s clearly trying his best to pull this movie out of its tailspin. But despite his valiant efforts, he can’t. Trapped in Paradise was an opportunity doomed to be squandered.

How was the movie?
How was Nic Cage’s acting?
Dedicated, desperate
Did his performance make the movie worse?