Moon over Parador Reviews
Yes it's not a masterpiece and it's not Mazursky's best work, but it'll get you through the evening with most of the ones you might watch it with (even kids) smiling with this lighthearted comedy.
I can't believe I haven't reviewed this yet! This is another one of Mom's summer movies, made more intriguing on the shelf because of its cast. And we all of us fell in love, because it is a much better movie than it has any right to be. Apparently, not a lot of people agree with me on that. Roger's complaint was that the movie was too human, which I've always seen as its greatest strength. It's true that Parador is the Latin American banana republic of our imaginings--all of them. It's true that the satire here could have been a lot sharper and gotten a different kind of laugh. There is even a moment wherein a character dresses up as a nun to escape the army, and the only intended irony is that she is a rich man's mistress who was referred to early in the movie as little better than a prostitute. No one mentions that nuns weren't exactly safe from attack in Latin American banana republics in 1988. However, there is just enough sociopolitical commentary to keep it from being painful while allowing us to get involved with the characters at its heart.
Specifically, Jack Noah (Richard Dreyfuss). He is a working actor auditioning for the New York Shakespeare Festival after having been incognito for a whole year. He meets with Toby (Dann Florek) and Desmond (Roger Aaron Brown) to tell them the story of what he's been up to. The flashback begins with Jack on the set of a movie in Parador. The dictator, Alphonse Simms (also Dreyfuss), is brought to meet the cast. In order to keep Simms from sexually assaulting her, Jack's costar, Jenny (Dana Delaney), tells Simms that Jack does an excellent impersonation of him, either not knowing or not caring that, if Simms doesn't think it's funny, Jack could pay with his life. That night at Carnival, however, Simms keels over dead. His chief adviser and head of the secret police, Roberto Strausmann (Raul Julia), has Jack kidnapped and tells him that he will either fill in for the dictator or die.
Thus begins one year in the life of Jack Noah. The household staff knows the truth but says nothing, knowing full well what could happen to them if they did. Alphonse Simms also has a mistress, Madonna Mendez (Sonia Braga), and she figures out the truth in a really inconvenient way. But, as she points out later, Jack is playing the best role of his life with no one able to admire him at it. She does, and so does the psychopathic (but Harvard educated!) Roberto, but to the world, he's just Alphonse Simms. It's a picture of the ultimate frustration for an actor. If he weren't doing a good job, everyone would know. Because he is doing a good job, there is no one to admire it. Heck, he even manages to fool people he knows personally, including CIA man Ralph (Jonathan Winters). Roberto conned Jack into taking the role in part by reading his good reviews, the one thing Jack cannot resist. But there is no one to give him good reviews here, because he just [i]is[/i] Alphonse Simms.
The story has been played with several times, of course. Conveniently, Richard Dreyfuss even has a brother, Lorin, with whom he shares a close physical resemblance, making certain scenes easier to film. However, the important point is that the pretender in this isn't just some random guy. We saw Kevin Kline do it in [i]Dave[/i], but Kevin Kline's Dave wasn't an actor. Neither is any variant on the pauper in any version of [i]The Prince and the Pauper[/i]. The fact that Jack is an actor informs essentially everything he does as Alphonse Simms. I mean, half the reason he puts Simms on a diet is so that Jack won't have to wear the padding anymore. The movie calls out Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman as the actors to whom Jack Noah is comparing himself, not even comparing him to the real Alphonse Simms. (Roberto says he would kill to work with De Niro or Hoffman; it's worth noting that he never did. Aside from his tiny role in [i]The Graduate[/i], neither has Dreyfuss.) A man who wasn't an actor might have thought of improving the country before Jack did.
Yeah, so maybe it isn't great art. However, as Mom's Summer Movies go, it's still a very good one. I have been informing people that I loved Ed Asner in [i]Lou Grant[/i] for years, despite the fact that I'm not sure I've ever actually seen [i]Lou Grant[/i]. (As it turns out, the line is merely, "I love [i]Lou Grant[/i].") Roberto is a calm, intelligent man except when he's suddenly a raging monster. Jack is a consummate actor. Roger compares Madonna to Evita (perhaps inspired by the fact that Jack is said to have starred in it once and possibly even by a reference to having lost a role to Mandy Patinkin, who played Che on Broadway; it is not a reference to the movie, which came out eight years later), and it's not a faulty comparison. She did start in Roberto's nightclub before catching the eye of Alphonse Simms. The implication, however, is that this former dancer is a much more unqualified good for her country. The actor who let her become so was probably good for Parador, too.
He discusses how he was taught the mannerisms and other important information by the President's right-hand man, "Roberto Strausmann" (Raul Julia), who is secretly undermining the President.
With help from the dead "President's" mistress "Madonna Mendez" (Sonia Braga), he begins to change the dictator's public image slowly, which pretty much upsets "Strausman".
I have to day that this movie has some good chuckles, but not full of gut-busting laughs. A lot of the laughs are one-liners as "Noah" is trying to keep the fact that he is not the president from the good people of "Parador", who live in poverty the likes he has never seen. There were some missed opportunities though.
In one scene, the kitchen staff has a sneaking suspicions that "Noah" is not the president. This is the only time in the entire movie that we see them talk about this. We don't see any other sign of them trying to prove their suspicions, even if it's just for themselves. I would also liked to have seen more scenes with Charro, who plays the president's maid. She could have provided some fair laughs with her trademark energy which causes her to talk at a fast rate making her almost completely incomprehensible because of her accent. Her energy could have also brought some laughs with any of the performers who could have kept up with her.
Julia does a pretty good job as the villain, but I think that his true intentions should have been explored a bit more. It is pretty obvious that he is the true dictator with the late president as window dressing for him.
Two other cast members which were under used was Jonathan Winters and Sammy Davis, Jr., who plays himself in a couple of scenes. Both have played comedic roles and could have done a good job if their roles were expanded. Winters was one of the few actors who could keep up with Robin Williams (both worked as father and son on the US television series "Mork and Mindy", with the younger Williams as the father). If Winters was allowed to go for it, he would have been pretty funny in his scenes.
Dreyfuss and Braga had some fair on-screen chemistry in their scenes, but I felt that they could have been a bit better. Their on-screen romance wasn't really launched correctly in my opinion either. We hear "Noah", in voiceover telling the story to his friends, explain that he was falling for "Mendez", but we never really see it in the particular scene that was playing out under the voiceover.
The music was pretty boring in this film. We hear some local Brazilian music, which is fair, but the "Parador" National Anthem is not great, especially when Davis sings it.
If you are looking for a movie that is filled with laughs, I can't suggest this one. However, it's not that bad, with some fairly good laughs and a pretty good cast. I probably would say that you should catch this on HBO or another movie channel and save your money for something you want to rent.