'Blame It on Rio': The Most Inappropriate Romantic Comedy of All-Time?
"It's been a long while since I've seen 'Blame It on Rio,'" film historian and author John DiLeo said via email, "but I remember it as an especially tasteless and embarrassing example."
Yes, "Blame It on Rio," the 1984 comedy about a 43-year-old man, played by Michael Caine, who carries on a would-be madcap affair with his best friend's teenage daughter (then-newcomer Michelle Johnson), still has it. Thirty years after its release — billed as a romantic comedy, opening in theaters on the coattails of Valentine's Day, on Feb. 17, 1984 — the film still has the power to generate a facepalm, if not the question: What were they thinking?! (To be fair, the film also continues to generate interest for Johnson's topless scenes.)
But as for the film: Was it really supposed to be funny that Johnson's character pops out her retainer before having sex on the beach with Caine's? Was it really supposed to be funny that Johnson's character calls Caine's "Uncle Matthew," as if he, the character, were a longtime family friend and father figure, which he, the character, actually is? Was it really supposed to be funny that the sex farce concerns a teen and a fortysomething?
Yes. Yes, it was.
"If people weren't uptight about it, it wouldn't be funny," director Stanley Donen once said.
Donen, the legendary filmmaker ("Singin' in the Rain," "Funny Face," and the really, truly grown-up and altogether wonderful relationship comedy, "Two for the Road"), was but one of the first-class talents behind "Blame It on Rio." Writer Larry Gelbart ("Tootsie," TV's "M*A*S*H") was another. Star Caine, the future Oscar-winner, was another. The film's source material, the 1977 French film, "In a Wild Moment," was well regarded, too.
Bruce McNall, the former owner of hockey's Los Angeles Kings, who helped put together the financing on "Rio," and was a producer of the film, remembers Donen coming up with the project. And McNall remembers himself thinking, "It'd be a lot of fun. It'd be great."
Joseph Bologna, Demi Moore, in one of her early film roles, as Caine's daughter, Valerie Harper, as Caine's estranged wife, and Johnson in the "sex fantasy role," as one critic put it in 1984, rounded out the main cast.