The holiday season brings with it many things—friends, food, fun and a whole phantasm of events that seem to bury one in woeful debt, blurred memories, and a nagging sense of ‘what just happened there?’. Ahhh…but we often hear a sound, a faint sound in the distance, and know it to be true—the holidays always begin with a certain event. If you are a longtime music fan, that tradition opens with Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, strings together some Band magic from The Last Waltz, and well, I’m sure there could be a 26-minute Halley’s Comet in that sweet mix, too. THE sound, indeed.
And that sound you hear isn’t a bowl of mashed potatoes splattered against the wall, or a brandy bottle breaking in the back alley, or even a dessert cart wheeled off the balcony. No, that’s the sound of the Great Beast Itself. Yep—the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey.
We skipped this particular edition last year, but brought the behemoth back in 2011. So get your forks, spoons, and knives out (hell, dig out the snow shovel, too), and get ready for this look at a turkey of the cinematic flavor with a look at Trapped in Paradise. The 1994 holiday film starred Nicolas Cage, Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey. Ostensibly, a warm-hearted comedy with a fair dash of mild drama and some old-fashioned romance thrown in for good measure, the film was also a flop at the box office, while being scorned by the critics. Which, of course, is all just fine within the realm of Hidden Flick.
What is a successful film, anyway? Who really cares if you go to see something and the rows are not lined with patrons? Does it matter if your film did not make back its budget? Well, yeah, sure, on that last point, but one wonders why something can be made, and yet, still be shown in some fashion years later. I ponder that because so many films that I’ve seen that had any semblance of an idea worth mentioning are way too far out of the mainstream to even whisper in the same breath as various alleged blockbusters. We live in a capitalist society, and films are made to create revenue, which, in turn, will drive the business of other films to be made, and so on and so on. Furthermore (did I just say ‘Furthermore’? What is this—law school?), films are made to entertain so one can forget the problems of the day for 90 to 120 minutes. In the end, it’s also not just all about money and the no-brainer ‘let’s blow stuff up’ aspect. People want to ESCAPE.
So escape you shall when you enter the fictional wintry town called Paradise in this little hidden and very dorky film written and directed by George Gallo, about the spirit of the holidays, forgiveness, redemption, a few chuckles, a charismatic Richard Jenkins performance (later to make an impression in T.V.’s Six Feet Under as the deceased patriarch), a weird Mickey Rourke imitation from Dana Carvey, some sarcastic cracks from Lovitz that play well on occasion, and, of course, Cage, who shamelessly allows his talent to often play characters that combine a bit of sharp wit and misplaced intelligence. Cage is usually strong when he is given some semblance of a goal. In this film, he has a goal—albeit one via a contrived and simple plot, but nonetheless, the de rigueur ‘warm-hearted holiday-induced’ goal—and he achieves that goal. He finds love and sanity. May we all find those elusive twin qualities amidst our own sound shenanigans. Meanwhile, I’ll vanish back into my hiatus for a bit longer, and wish you all a Happy Holiday season.