“Trapped in Paradise” (1995): An Underrated Christmas Classic  – Review

“Trapped in Paradise” (1995): An Underrated Christmas Classic – Review

“Trapped in Paradise” (1995) is a film that makes you forget what a douche Dana Carvey has turned into to. Directed by George Gallo, known for writing the script for “Midnight Run,” this film invites us on a sleazy sleigh ride that goes off the beaten path, tumbles down a snowy embankment, and crashes into the Christmas tree of criminal comedies.

The plot follows the Firpo brothers: Dave (Jon Lovitz), Alvin (Dana Carvey), and Bill (Nicolas Cage), who have the collective moral backbone of a chocolate éclair. Dave and Alvin, fresh from prison, convince Bill, the comparatively straight-laced sibling, to join them in robbing a bank in the idyllic small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania. Predictably, their plan unravels faster than a Christmas sweater in a cat’s claws as they become ensnared in a web of holiday hospitality and small-town solidarity.

From the outset, one can’t help but feel the actors were told the film was a comedy and decided to take matters into their own hands. Lovitz and Carvey are brilliant and play off each other nicely. Cage, in a performance that switches between deadpan and just plain dead, appears to question his life choices with every line delivery.

The director reportedly clashed with Cage, who wanted a darker edge to the character and the film. At the time, Cage was about to win the Academy Award-winning for “Leaving Las Vegas”, and the tension between his method acting and the film’s comedic tone is pretty hilarious.

The production wasn’t without its challenges. The film was shot during a bitterly cold Canadian winter, which meant that the actors were genuinely as frozen as their on-screen counterparts. In terms of story, “Trapped in Paradise” tries to serve up a holiday heart-warmer, but some of us like a cold Christmas.

It’s as if someone took the essence of Christmas spirit, distilled it into a liquor, and then handed it over to three alcoholics – whatever that means. The film’s central conceit—that the Firpo brothers are reformed by the goodness of small-town folk—is as plausible as Santa fitting down a modern low-emission wood stove. Yet, this incredulity adds to the film’s charm, much like an ugly Christmas sweater party.

The town of Paradise itself deserves a nod for its casting. The townspeople are so relentlessly nice that you begin to suspect they’re planning to sacrifice the brothers to ensure a good harvest. Their unyielding friendliness turns from endearing to eerie faster than you can say “eggnog.”

In the realm of holiday movies, “Trapped in Paradise” is like that one gift under the tree that’s awkwardly wrapped in newspaper and duct tape. It’s not what you asked for, and it’s not what you wanted, but once you get past the packaging, it has its own peculiar appeal.

This film is a snow globe of comedic talent shaken up and allowed to settle in a landscape that’s just a bit too quaint for believability. And yet, it’s this very quality that makes “Trapped in Paradise” an entertaining watch. You won’t find refined humor here, but you will find a comedy that like a fruitcake, is dense, a bit too nutty, and inexplicably present every holiday season.

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