Trapped in Paradise aims for the lowest common denominator and clears it. Christmas films are supposed to be about altruism, cheer, and the unfaltering power of the human spirit. Instead, we find a film that pokes fun at people with down syndrome, three-legged dogs, violent car crashes, and speech impediments. I cannot possibly fathom a person finding this schtick funny. The movie tiptoes along a gray area for most of its running time, occasionally offending its viewers for good measure. The best way to describe this movie is like a 1,000-piece puzzle, each piece being from a different puzzle. Impossible to finish, wouldn’t you say?

Three disastrously mismatched brothers (more on that later) are drawn to the town of Paradise, Pennsylvania on a tip that the local bank is prime for the taking. The bank is complete with a dysfunctional security system and a snoring security guard. Two of the brothers are currently on parole (Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey) and the other is a restaurant manager (Nicholas Cage) named Bill who drives to and from work in a garbage can on wheels. All have their respective fiscal issues and find the robbery to be within reason. Problem is, the tip came from a Mr. Mazzucci (Vic Manni), a notorious mobster who wanted the money for himself. He takes the brothers’ mother hostage (A bored Florence Stanley) as ransom whilst the trio is stuck singing Christmas carols at the Anderson’s house, the family that just so happens to own the bank that they robbed that very morning.

If this sounds stupid to you, that’s because it is. The characters are so paper thin you wish to tear them to shreds. Jon Lovitz’s character, named Dave, plays the manufacturer. He supplies the guns, raises hell, and routes the escape. Nicholas Cage plays Bill as the desperate sibling, in typical Nicholas Cage fashion: Lots of white in the eye, plenty of gum, and his voice wavers between the decibels of 2 and 10 spastically and often. Finally, there is Dana Carvey, who is interminably awful. His protracted performance, consisting of kleptomaniac urges and mouse-like squeaks, really tested my patience. Patience lost.

Every so often the film will try something that resembles comedy, but will then smash it to bits and resume its terrible onslaught of sludge and forced warmth. How are we supposed to believe this was marketed as a family film when people are held at gunpoint, people almost drown (and are saved by the curiously friendly townsfolk), and people with mental retardation are the butt of a joke? Also, there’s absolutely no way they expect us to believe the ménage à trois of pain that is Lovitz, Cage, and Carvey to be brothers, right? It’s like an electrifying nightmare that gives you the sweats, except its playing on Fox Movie Channel.

What I want you to do now, dear reader, is buy this DVD at your local video store. Wrap it in the most colorful, pleasant wrapping you can find. Really go for the gusto on this one, and add a nice red bow on the top. Bow’s never hurt. Now, find that person in your office that you despise, the one that would least expect a gift from you this forthcoming holiday, and hand them the gift with a large smile on your face. I couldn’t think of a better way to say: “Merry Christmas.” I think you get the picture. There is no trace of redeemable quality in this film, and its best if you just let this one get buried by the heaps of snow that lace this dreadful tale.

Kyle Kogan is a film critic living in Chicago.

Comments (1)

On November 12, 2012 at 5:40 AM, Paul wrote...

Dear reader - please ignore almost everything which this reviewer has written and watch this hidden gem of a comedy… then make your own minds up.

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