30 years later, ‘Club Paradise’ more bargain than all-inclusive comedy
Robin Williams. Peter O’Toole. Rick Moranis. Eugene Levy. A cast of SCTV regulars. A Caribbean setting. What could go wrong? It all did in 1986’s Club Paradise, released 30 years ago today.
Like a vacation property accidentally built on a sinkhole, Club Paradise was a promising idea with a bad foundation. Williams played Jack Moniker, a Chicago firefighter who is injured on the job and retires to the fictional St. Nicholas with his disability settlement. There he befriends a reggae musician/beach resort owner (Jimmy Cliff) who is struggling to keep up with his bills. Jack decides to invest in his friend’s resort and make a go of it, all to the dismay of the island’s corrupt government, which wants to sell out to a big developer.
If it all sounds a little too much like an amalgam of every ‘80s movie you saw, that’s to be expected. Club Paradise featured multiple directors, multiple writers and enough changes in casting to choke a island boar.
The chaos didn’t go unnoticed by critics, including the late Roger Ebert, who wrote in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times: “… The movie lives so firmly in the moment that it never develops any energy for its story. There's nothing for us to really care about. The screenplay is broken down into schtick so that characters can materialize, do their thing and evaporate.”
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Club Paradise on its 30th anniversary:
1. Bill Murray was originally cast in the role of Jack Moniker (Williams) and John Cleese was intended to play the role that Peter O’Toole played. O’Toole would be a Golden Razzie nomination for worst supporting actor.
2. Harold Ramis ended up directing the movie after replacing John Landis.
3. One writer listed in the credits is “Ed Roboto.” That’s actually Harry Shearer, who did a complete rewrite of the movie with Tom Leopold. Ultimately nothing beyond Shearer’s title for the film was kept in the final production and Shearer was so “appalled” by the final movie that he demanded the pseudonym be used.
4. Adolph Caesar, who played the villainous prime minister, died four months before the movie opened.
5. Portland, Jamaica, stood in for the fictional island nation of St. Nicholas.