Trapped In Paradise (1994) belongs with other Nicolas Cage comedies of the nineties such as Honeymoon In Vegas (1992), Amos & Andrew (1993), Guarding Tess and It Could Happen To You (both released in 1994) as a cycle of intermittently funny and flawed films. Each movie has enough that works for it that the rest feels like trashy filler. If you enjoyed these films (or are simply a Nicolas Cage completist) then Trapped In Paradise is the movie for you.
Trapped In Paradise came out the year before Nicolas Cage won his Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and two years before The Rock (1996). In this early period of Cage’s career it wasn’t certain what his type was. And though he’s made a career out of seemingly saying “yes” to every project he’s offered it’s in this early period that one sees the actor appearing in films that seem to be the launching point for a career in big budget entertainments. Trapped In Paradise is one of these projects.
Trapped In Paradise was the directorial debut of George Gallo whose screenwriting credits include Midnight Run (1988) and Bad Boys (1995). Gallo’s film reiterates his strengths at creating character driven crime comedies. Trapped In Paradise hits all of the familiar beats of this genre but with a heavy dose of Capra-esque sentimentality thrown into the mix. It’s another Christmas movie that attempts an original take on the redemption narrative complete with oblique references to Dickens, It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), and Lethal Weapon (1989).
Nicolas Cage plays one of three brothers; the other two (Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey) con him into pulling a bank robbery in Paradise, Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve. With the intervention of a blizzard, plenty of holiday cheer, small town charm, and the potential for a romance with Mädchen Amick Cage’s character begins to reform. However Cage’s acts of reciprocal kindness may come too late as escaped convicts and the FBI descend on the scene, leading to a series of madcap misadventures.
Trapped In Paradise is the kind of mindless light comedy that is most welcome during the hectic holiday season. It isn’t a good film but it has its moments. Fans of Lovitz and Carvey will of course enjoy seeing these two funny men do their thing, and of course there are plenty of patented Nicolas Cage freak outs to sustain anyone. But the emotional core, if there really is one, resides exclusively in the three brief scenes between Amick and Cage where Trapped In Paradise seems to promise more than a few empty laughs and cheap thrills.