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Case Number 01170

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Blame It On Rio

MGM // 1984 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gary Militzer (Retired) // June 6th, 2001

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All Rise...

The Charge

She's the hottest thing on the beach. She's also his best friend's daughter!

Opening Statement

A sloppy reworking of the 1977 French film Un Moment d'Egarement (One Wild Moment), Blame it on Rio is yet another of those so-called comedies from the 1980s that are more memorable for their bountiful bits of nudity than for any semblance of cohesive plot or actual humor. Call me crazy, but I actually wish to laugh when I watch a farcical film.

Facts of the Case

Matthew (Michael Caine) and Victor (Joseph Bologna—Big Daddy, Transylvania 6-500, Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love) are a pair of wealthy best friends afflicted with a bout of the "middle-age crazies." Matthew is suffering through a bad marriage; Victor is going through a bad divorce. To cope, they take off for a Brazilian vacation, with their two lovely young daughters in tow.

Set against the exotic backdrop of sensual, swinging Rio de Janeiro, Matthew is unbelievably seduced by Victor's nubile teenage daughter, the sexually aggressive Jennifer (Michelle Johnson—Dr. Giggles, The Glimmer Man). She appears topless a lot. She shows her breasts; Caine shows his. They have a fling. The guilt gets to Matthew. He vows to end the absurd affair and keep the whole thing a secret from everyone. But Caine's gotta have that nookie…so the white lies keep coming, even as he does. Eventually, his daughter Nicole (Demi Moore) discovers this indiscretion. Then his wife Karen (Valerie Harper—television's Hogan Family and Rhoda) shows up in Rio, and things really start to get wacky.

Throw in copious amounts of nude sunbathing and Brazilian street dancing and you have a sure-fire recipe for lighthearted, whimsical success, right?

The Evidence

Like much of the sophomoric, allegedly comedic output delivered to the masses in the pastel-drenched, fluorescently decadent 1980s, Blame it on Rio plays at best like a typically bad television sitcom, where not a single character acts like a real human being, padded with gratuitously ample bosom shots thrown in for good measure. I'm not naïve; I realize that this is all a good 70% of the American populace require for their weekly viewing habits. However, as a card-carrying member of the Conscious Minority, watching this Blame it on Rio DVD on the heels of spinning the superb Requiem For a Dream, Traffic, and Two Girls and a Guy discs, was an excruciatingly mind-numbing process.

Blame it on the direction. Legendary director Stanley Donen has done better work before, and should have seen what a mess this production was from the get-go. Over a long, distinguished career, Donen directed classic, beloved films including On the Town (1949), Singin' in the Rain (1952), Charade (1963), and Two For the Road (1967). Noted mostly for his entertaining musical adaptations, Donen somehow devolved in the 1980s into directing pap like the notoriously bad Saturn 3 and, well uh, Blame it on Rio. What happened? Even his choice to regularly insert terribly unfunny narrative sequences of Caine talking straight into the camera reeks of appalling bad judgment, especially for a veteran director of his stature.

Blame it on the screenplay. From writer Charlie Peters, the creative wordsmith behind forgettable dung like Paternity, Her Alibi, Three Men and a Little Lady, and Hot to Trot—here is a hack scribe whose talent truly is best serviced writing stale material for Bobcat Goldthwait and his talking horse! Co-written with veteran television comedy writer Larry Gelbart (1950s Your Show of Shows, Sid Caesar's Hour), their distinctive writing styles violently clash into a hodgepodge mishmash of dated "take my wife please"-style so-called Golden Age of Comedy zingers and trite, aimless, lowest-common-denominator fluff.

Their crude, inane story mostly comes off as offensive. The whole borderline incestuous nature of the father/daughter relationships here made me uncomfortable as a viewer, but then I am not a creature of the Springer herd mentality that seems to feel that parading around nakedly amongst family members, with a flirtatious, laissez-faire flair, is normal, commendable behavior. Is it too freaking much to have these characters actually act like fathers and daughters, and not just like rich, sleazy sugar daddies with their young, illicit paramours tagging along for the ride?

Blame it on the acting. Michael Caine looks mightily embarrassed through much of this contrived, so-called romantic comedy. Caine made this during that crazy period where he would literally appear in seemingly any project thrown his way (can you say Jaws the Revenge, boys and girls?). I mean, Caine is a splendid actor (his performance in the original, superior Get Carter is among my favorites), and he usually adds a touch of class to any production he's in, but come on, he's made some unbelievably poor choices through the years that undoubtedly paid off more than a few mortgages and allowed him to lounge in the lap of luxury. This is one of those roles. [Editor's Note: And who can forget him, nine years later, in Steven Seagal's environmental action thriller, On Deadly Ground?]

As a reward for her performance in Blame it on Rio, Michelle Johnson was nominated for a 1985 Razzie Award in the category of "Worst New Star." Unlike the politicized Academy Awards, the Razzie Awards are generally an accurate indicator and barometer of dubious achievement in the medium. I'll leave it at that. She was cast in this role chiefly for two big, perky reasons…and they both receive ample screen time, and convey more range their any facet of her acting acumen.

Joseph Bologna has the sleazy, low-rent persona to pull off a character of this sort, but the endlessly lame wisecracks that the screenplay forces him to incessantly spout just grate on the nerves. Valerie Harper is a terrible, annoying actress, period, so she is perfectly cast in this film as the shrill, aggravating wife. A pre-enhanced Demi Moore (same raspy voice, flatter chest) sleepwalks through her minor, thankless role as the bitter daughter. The only real surprise is just how truly uncomfortable the notoriously flashy Demi appears in her topless scene.

On the plus side, Blame it on Rio is graced with an anamorphic transfer that retains its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Though largely filmed amongst the vibrant, picturesque landscape of Rio, the picture still looks dull and washed out. It all appears rather blah. While the fleshtones are natural, there are quite a few specks, scratches, and blemishes on the print, and the nighttime scenes are liberally sprinkled with grain. It is by no means a terrible transfer; it's just rather ho-hum and ultimately disappointing for a film showcasing such scenic vistas.

Blame it on Rio is presented with only a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, available in your choice of three colorful languages—English, French, and Spanish. Thankfully, this muffled track helps keep all the horrible music and dialogue buried in its muted, low-key soundscape. While I never thought I'd be praising a DVD studio for offering only mono audio, limiting the sonic torture to only the center channel is actually a godsend. There is some minor hiss apparent, but not enough to drone out the nonsense onscreen.

The only extra included in this bare bones package is the equally lame theatrical trailer. Thank you Jeebus.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I realize that a lot of people are eagerly awaiting titles like Bachelor Party and Blame it on Rio. That's fine. If you find the crude, cheap joke involving a distraught girl attempting suicide by overdosing on birth control pills knee-slappingly funny, then you'll likely enjoy this as a guilty pleasure. Since it's part of the budget-priced MGM Movie Time series, the disc can be found for around 10 bucks at most retailers. I've said all the negative things I'm going to say, and I refuse to find anything positive about this irritatingly mindless tripe. Wait, did I mention that it has all the style of one of those special episodes of The Facts of Life where the girls go overseas on some crazy vacation and get enmeshed in romance and foreign intrigue? All right, enough of the bashing, even though it is so fun. And therapeutic.

Closing Statement

Really, this is '80s cheese that has gone way bad; throw it away. Life is too short to waste precious time on disposable trash like this. Watch another movie, read a book, call your mom, hell—drink a bottle of cough syrup and stare at the blank wall for two hours—you'll get more entertainment value in the end.

The Verdict

Enough of the Blame Game…all parties are equally guilty for this abomination, and are hereby ordered to actually watch this entire film again to relive the embarrassment. That is punishment enough, I suppose. Although I would like to discuss this matter a bit more with Michelle Johnson, alone in my Judge's chambers…

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Scales of Justice

Video: 70
Audio: 50
Extras: 5
Acting: 15
Story: 5
Judgment: 20

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb

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