So, when putting this Countdown from Halloween to Christmas list, there were plenty of easy choices. But 56 days is a long time to watch festive family films, so I had to mix up the genres. We’ve already had horror films, action films, and… Rocky IV so far, and the next two days we take a diversion into crime films with a festive twist.
And today it’s…
12th November, Day 13
Trapped In Paradise (George Gallo, 1994)
Bill Firpo (Nicolas Cage) is a succesful restaurant manager, who sees in the paper that prisoners are being released early on parole due to overcrowding. Bill’s two screw-up brothers Dave (Jon Lovitz) and Alvin (Dana Carvey) are two such jailbirds, and manage to get released despite Dave’s obsessive lying and Alvin’s cleptomania. Bill meets them as they are released, but when they make a brief stop on their way home and his brother’s try to a shop, he realises they have not reformed in the slightest.
At their mother’s house Dave tries to persuade Bill to take them to a small town called Paradise in Pennsylvania to visit the daughter of a dying cellmate, even though leaving the state would violate their parole. Bill refuses to entertain the idea, despite their mother breaking down in tears whilst reading the cellmate’s letter. In a move definitely taken from The Blues Brothers, Dave turns up at Bill’s restaurant with the intention of embarrassing him into agreeing to the trip. His plan fails, but on the way home they find police cars all around the block, having tracked them down following the previous robbery attempt.
With no chance to go back home, Bill decides to go with his brothers to visit the daughter Sarah in Paradise. When he arrives, he realises Sarah works in a bank. A bank with very lax security that has just taken in a big cash injection to pay out on the town people’s Christmas savings accounts. Dave has set up the trip to persuade Bill to help him and Alvin to rob the bank. And when he sees how easy it is, he can’t resist.
They pull the job off – not without few hitches – but the wintery weather stops them from making a clean getaway, and they crash. The Firpo brothers are looked after by the very bank manager they just robbed, and this makes Bill feel guilty. And when Sarah’s mobster – and definitely not dying – father finds out about the robbery, he breaks out of prison swearing revenge on those who crossed him. How will the Firpo brothers manage to get out of Paradise in one piece?
Nic Cage has made some… substandard movies (check out Dave’s attempt to watch some of the recent ones here), but while it isn’t Oscar winning stuff, this is an enjoyable one. Bill Firpo isn’t a full-on weird character we would see later on in his career, but after starting out as the straight guy, he reveals his own peculiarities as the film goes on. Also, Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey are very good – the fact that there are three brothers means that characters which might get annoying are diluted enough to not out stay their welcome. Lovitz is sly, slimey, and manipulative, Carvey is naive but not innocent – there’s more than a little Garth in Alvin Firpo.
There are plenty of laugh out loud moments. This isn’t the best film of anyone’s career, but it makes a nice addition to the Christmas movie cannon.
Overall I give this:
A nicely diverting, gentle comedy, that actually is a real Christmas film, both in setting and theme.
I’m back with another critically-savaged Christmas crime film, a film with Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron… REINDEER GAMES! It’s also got Gary Sinise – how bad can it be?
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS Here’s my list so far:
31st October, Day 1: The Nightmare Before Christmas
1st November, Day 2: Rocky IV
2nd November, Day 3: Edward Scissorhands
3rd November, Day 4: Trading Places
4th November, Day 5: Batman Returns
5th November, Day 6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
6th November, Day 7: Gremlins
7th November, Day 8: Eyes Wide Shut
8th November, Day 9: Love Actually
9th November, Day 10: Lethal Weapon
10th November, Day 11: Die Hard / Die Hard 2
11th November, Day 12: About A Boy
12th November, Day 13: Trapped In Paradise