1980s were a decade of many cultural phenomenon such as the teen angst film,
the splatter horror film, the zombie films, and of course the teen sex comedy.
Bob Clark’s Porky’s (1981) was a huge
success both financially and artistically. To this day it’s still one of the funniest
movies ever made. Many of today’s best-known actors cut their teeth in such
fare: Tom Hanks attended an out-of-control Bachelor
Party (1984) and even Johnny Depp and Rob Morrow checked into a Private Resort (1985). Stanley Donen,
best known for directing Singin’ in the
Rain (1952), Funny Face (1957), Charade (1963), and Arabesque (1966), followed up the boring and disastrous Saturn 3 (1980) with Blame It on Rio, a peculiar entry in his
otherwise illustrious career. Jennifer (Michelle Johnson) is a pulchritudinous seventeen-year-old
who lusts after her father Victor’s (Joseph Bologna) best friend Matthew
(Michael Caine), a man roughly twenty-five years her senior (in reality there
is a thirty-two year difference between Caine and Johnson). The situation can
only be characterized as “creepy” and “inappropriate” since she has known him
her whole life and refers to him as “Uncle Matthew”.
the start we know that Matthew and his wife Karen (Valerie Harper) are
estranged when Karen drops a bombshell that she’s going on vacation by herself which
forces Matthew and their daughter Nikki (Demi Moore) to fly to Rio by
themselves with Victor and Jennifer. Almost from the outset Jennifer is pining
for Matthew, hitting the beach in nothing but a bikini bottom, her abundant
assets in full display to the dismay of her father. Despite Matthew’s vehement
protests, she insists that she loves him and only wants to be with him. Men her
own age simply don’t appeal to her. It becomes obvious by the film’s end that
Matthew is starting to fall for her (he’s still married to Karen), but one of
the biggest problems with the film is its characterization of Jennifer. Ms.
Johnson, who was hired by Mr. Donen following his discovery of her in W magazine, portrays Jennifer as she was
written: immature and unstable. By the film’s end, Jennifer commits a truly
awful act that is glossed over in the standard Hollywood fashion. It turns out
that she may be a little more dangerous than Matthew ever would have imagined.
Rio, which opened on Friday, February 17, 1984 just after
Valentine’s Day (yes, 34 years ago, Good Heavens), boasts a fairly provocative
advertising campaign featuring a woman’s rear view donning a bikini and it
became frequent viewing on cable television following its theatrical run. The
film is a loose remake of the 1977 French film Un Moment D'égarement (In a Wild Moment) by Claude Berrie, made years
before he made Jean de Flourette and Manon des Sources, which director Donen
and his then-wife Yvette Mimieux had seen and decided to option for a remake. Ironically,
it was made yet again in 2015 with Vincent Cassel and François Cluzet and
directed by Jean-François Richet and retained the original titre français.
Johnson was the object of lust for many teen-age males during the mid-80s, yours
truly included, with her Starmakers poster adorning many a bedroom wall. Truth
be told, she’s quite a sight to behold, infinitely more fetching than the
average female in her age bracket. What Ms. Johnson may lack in acting ability-
this was her first film role after all- she more than makes up for with her
giddy adolescent enthusiasm. Demi Moore is demure (sorry) and appears so
briefly that you almost forget she’s even in the film. Even in the topless
beach scenes her long hair covers her breasts while Ms. Johnson’s hair is
pulled back up in a bun for obvious reasons. Coming on the heels of Blake
Edwards’ more accomplished 10 (1980)
with a far more mature Bo Derek, the irony is that Ms. Johnson gets mucho
screen time, but Demi Moore went on to have a very successful career.
the exception of Michael Caine who is always great, the acting in the film is
not up to par for a feature film. The late Joseph Bologna’s character never
seems to be sure if this is to be played for laughs or if it’s a serious exercise
in semi-revenge. Rio was met with a considerable
amount of critical vitriol, mostly from Vincent Canby and Roger Ebert who both
accused the film of pandering to prurient interests. They were not in the
minority. Even today, fellow reviewers aren’t too kind to the film.
Rio isn’t knee-slapping,
laugh-out-loud hilarious, it does contain its fair share of funny one-liners
that do still stand up today. So, the film isn’t a total wash.
new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber has a highly improved image over the MGM/UA DVD.
It also contains the film’s trailer, as well as several other trailers. The
highlight is an educational and insightful audio commentary by film historians
Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson. The commentary was done quite recently as they
mention the 2017 of Mr. Bologna. They speak eloquently about the film’s origins
and how the subject matter is in the newspapers quite frequently nowadays. Definitely
a stand-out and listening-worthy track.