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BLAME IT ON RIO

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: For some reason, "Blame it on Rio' earned a Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber recently, so here's my review for this Stanley Donen flick, published in the Deseret News on Feb. 17, 1984.

Given the talent involved in this production, “Blame It On Rio” is a major disappointment, though it does boast a superb comic characterization from Michael Caine.

The off-screen talent is equally impressive: The executive producer/co-writer is Larry Gelbart, largely responsible for TV’s “M*A*S*H” and “Tootsie”; the producer/director is Stanley Donen, who has given us “Charade,” “Two for the Road” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” among others.

But caving into the supposed need for explicit material in the ’80s, “Blame It On Rio” confuses bedroom farce with soft-core porn.

     

Joseph Bologna, left, Michelle Johnson, Michael Caine, Demi Moore, 'Blame it on Rio'

The story has Caine and his best friend, Joseph Bologna, vacationing in Rio de Janeiro with their two teenage daughters (Demi Moore, Michelle Johnson). Bologna is divorced, and while he’s off finding a new love, Caine broods, nursing his recently troubled marriage (to Valerie Harper).

The next thing he knows, Caine is being seduced by Bologna’s young daughter — and Johnson isn’t the least bit subtle about it. The rest of the film has Caine being embarrassed every time he’s in the same room with Bologna, and Bologna going crazy trying to find the middle-aged man that’s been with his daughter.

This could have been a funny look at a man who is pursued by, but eludes a teenage crush. Instead, the film wallows in its explicit possibilities, gives the entire situation a sordid texture and undercuts the laughter.

There’s no denying that the laughter is often there. There are funny lines, funny sight gags and one or two huge laugh-getters. But there is also a constant uncomfortable feeling to it all, and in the end the film just lays there, unable to reasonably or realistically resolve it all.

     

If ever there were an unsympathetic character, Caine’s is it. Yet somehow the actor manages to invest a lot of human dimension into this guy, and he forces us to care about him. But eventually, the script and sadly unsubtle direction do him in.

Of the rest of the cast, Bologna does his outraged father routine, similar to other caustic New Yorker roles he’s had in the past, and Valerie Harper (TV’s “Rhoda”) isn’t really on-screen long enough to be memorable. Johnson, whose role is really the second lead, is pretty, but she’s far too superficial to care about. What Caine sees in her has to be nothing but lust, though the script would have us think the relationship runs deeper.

The film often looks like a travelogue on Rio, instead of incorporating the scenery with the cast, but it is beautifully photographed and the music is appropriate.

On the whole, however, “Blame It On Rio” is nothing more than a big-scale R-rated drive-in exploitation film. If “Tootsie” is an example of how to take potentially tasteless material and handle it tastefully, “Blame It On Rio” is an example of how to make it as tasteless as possible.