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HAROLD RAMIS DIRECTS ROBIN WILLIAMS FOR 'CLUB PARADISE'

1986 rating: ***
This post was written after the death of Harold Ramis and Peter O'Toole and reblogged in memory of Robin Williams... And we begin with Ramis, best known as the brainy third banana in GHOSTBUSTERS or Bill Murray’s reluctant sidekick in STRIPES... He was also a terrific comedy writer, co-scripting ANIMAL HOUSE, MEATBALLS, BACK TO SCHOOL, STRIPES and GHOSTBUSTERS...  

Perhaps a Lawrence nod?
Along with writing and acting, Ramis directed such quotable classics as CADDYSHACK and NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION...  

But this particular vehicle from the mid-80's is both maligned and neglected: a dark horse comedy that never quite made a splash, or even a puddle. In fact, Robin Williams himself said he tried to "save it"...

CLUB PARADISE stars Williams as Jack Moniker, a Chicago fireman injured in the literal line of fire, who goes into early retirement, residing within a small Caribbean island named St. Nicholas. It’s a strange premise and an even stranger side-cast including Jimmy Cliff as local musician Jimmy Reed, owner of a run down, tax burdened hotel, and Peter O’Toole... who around this time starred in a string of quirky light comedies including CREATOR, HIGH SPIRITS and MY FAVORITE YEAR... as Englishman Anthony Cloyden Hayes, who spends most of his time at the local pub seducing a pretty critic (Joanna Cassidy).

Williams and O'Toole
Robin’s Moniker helps Jimmy renovate the hotel, and some of the more involving scenes are in montage form as our underdog hero, with the help of girlfriend Phillipa (Twiggy), turns this molehill into a slightly neater looking molehill that, through misleading ads centered stateside, resembles a luxurious haven, and thus the plot’s underway…

With an obvious attempt to tone down Robin Williams' frantic spontaneity while toning up his body, he's more of a leading man than a hyperactive clown, and with Cliff and O’Toole aside, this is an ensemble bringing together an assortment of Second City vets including Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty and Andrea Martin  (the only one missing is John Candy, who was beachside in SUMMER RENTAL).

Moranis and Levy are the Cheech and Chong of the group although they can't seem to score: After two sexy tourists ask the boys for local ganja, the unlucky duo travel around the back-beaches, searching and searching in vain... And after this "skit" plays out, Moranis winds up windsurfing, getting caught up in a hurricane. While Levy connects with a shy Mary Gross, we sporadically cut to Moranis lost at sea: Which is an attempt at a dependable, reoccurring punch-line since it's Rick Moranis after all...

A Good Sign
Meanwhile, Andrea Martin and her grouchy husband, played by NEWHART grouch Steven Kampman, can’t catch a break inside their grungy room: Through this mundane couple we learn just how bad the hotel is. And Robin Williams, whilst battling local chieftain Adolf Caesar in a semi-serious subplot, has to run around making sure everything works perfectly: of course nothing does and predictable havoc ensues.

CLUB PARADISE is a prime example of a comedy film that’s more entertaining than actually humorous. And the SCTV connection aside, it’s difficult attributing this particular vehicle to the Harold Ramis canon...

Lacking the memorable one-liners of CADDYSHACK, the engaging adventure of VACATION or the delicious depth of GROUNDHOG DAY, perhaps the late "Buddha of Comedy" wanted to try something new, or to get a busman’s pass, filming in the Caribbean instead of Chicago or New York... Like his main character, he might have needed a break from the routine: who doesn't? Either way, this CLUB, while being far from PARADISE, isn't entirely shabby. Proving that even some of Harold's misfires were at least somewhat entertaining.
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