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Sir Michael Caine plays Matthew Hollis; a man on vacation in Rio de Janeiro with his best friend Victor Lyons (Joseph Bologna). Both men have teenage daughters with them. When Caine falls for Victor's daughter Jennifer (Michelle Johnson), they embark on a secret, if slightly one-sided relationship. Victor is furious when he finds out about the "older man" in his daughter's life, and sets out to hunt him down with the aid of Matthew.Written by
A comedy where a middle-aged man has sex with his best friend's teenage daughter would seem morally wrong on so many levels as to violate municipal zoning ordinances. So why my lack of shame in copping to really enjoying this movie?
Watching "Blame It On Rio" back in 1984 when I was 18, the following items appealed to me. 1. Michelle Johnson naked. 2. Michelle Johnson in white pants. 3. Michael Caine's monologues. 4. Caine's chemistry with Joseph Bologna. 5. Michelle in her two-toned bikini.
Watching it now doesn't change what I like so much as in what order. Michelle Johnson is an extraordinarily beautiful woman and an engaging presence when she doesn't have a crying scene, and I think I have grown to appreciate her in other stages of dress, but the person that makes this film work for me now is Caine, whose level of commitment to this film is a thing of wonder.
"Blame It On Rio" is a sex farce which skates around real human feelings with moments of slapstick and sitcom repartee. There are about 150 ways the film can go wrong, but Caine sells it by keeping it light and silly.
Caine's character, Matthew Hollis, is a sympathetic, awkward type whose life gets upended when his wife Karen (Valerie Harper) decides she isn't going with him on vacation to Rio de Janiero. So it's just him, his friend Victor (Bologna), Victor's daughter Jennifer (Johnson), and Matthew's daughter Nicole (Demi Moore.)
Victor rides Matthew about making the most of his new opportunity: "Is tasting life, creating a little magic, is that cheating? You're a long time dead."
Jennifer has her own ideas on what Matthew should be doing, which she unleashes on him at an evening wedding festival at a beach: "Poor Uncle Matthew, he never had a chance."
Her nude scenes still pack a punch, but its the stuff in-between the nude scenes that excite me more now. Caine with anything in his hands, whether it be grating a carrot or brushing his teeth, is joyfully amusing, and his one-liners as revealed "Alfie"-style to the camera are just a lot of fun: "He needed my help...it's like asking an arsonist become the fire chief."
Bologna also makes me laugh, but something else, too. In his own askew, over-emoting way, he's the heart that makes the film work. When he discovers his daughter has been seeing another man, he immediately settles on Matthew - for help finding the culprit. This accounts for the funniest scenes in the film, but it also gives us something to care about. You laugh at Victor's blindness, but you also feel a little between the giggles when he tells Matthew: "You're a rock."
The main problem I have with "Blame It On Rio" is it is not all that sharp in the one-liner department. Co-screenwriter Larry Gelbart was the guy behind "Tootsie" and the best years of the sitcom "M*A*S*H," but he and Charlie Peters don't produce an especially witty script. There are funny lines, but more duds than you'd expect. "I've always had a problem with nudity. Sometimes, when I'm getting undressed, I almost wish I could leave the room, know what I mean?" Matthew asks us at one point. Fortunately, the writing gets much better in the second half, especially in the last twenty minutes when Matthew discovers he's not the only guy keeping a secret.
Celebrated director Stanley Donen makes the most of the natural beauty and native music of his location while keeping everything as light and fizzy as a tropical drink. "Blame It On Rio" may be morally dubious, but it's solid Hollywood fun of the kind Donen delivered for decades and as good a film as any for him to go out on. And thanks to Caine, "Blame It On Rio" still holds up.
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