Toronto's extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn't always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
Given the average suckiness of most movies shot here, it’s nice to stumble across something that’s surprisingly un-terrible, something that somehow slipped through the cracks and yet has some redeeming features. Such is the case with Trapped in Paradise.
The 1994 flick stars Nicolas Cage (yes!), Jon Lovitz (yes, at least on SNL and The Simpsons!), and Dana Carvey (ditto!) as a trio of bumbling bank robbers who end up stuck in a small town over Christmas. The rest of the cast is filled out by a good dozen people that make you go, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that guy/gal in something I can’t quite place…”
Before heading off, the film starts in “New York.” A popular quasi-NYC location is Melinda Street. We’ve seen it before in The Incredible Hulk and The Taking of Pelham 123, for starters. You can just barely recognize it by the Commerce Court awning sticking out on the left.
Cage then ducks into the St. Andrew subway station…
…which becomes a bit clearer when you notice the TTC vicinity map on the wall.
He goes to get his brothers out of jail and, hmmmm…red brick, cobblestone, green doors. No, we’re just not sure where this might be. Oh right, the Distillery District.
Then they go cruising up along the Gardiner Expressway…
…and you can see some Port Lands landmarks out the back, if you look past Cage’s scenery chewing.
The boys make a couple of stops, including one at this pawn shop, before getting out of town.
The precise location is hard to tell, but it’s from out on Queen Street East.
Cage also visits this church…
…which happens to be St. Paul’s on Bloor Street.
Finally, they get out of Dodge, stopping at this gas station, actually the Stop 50, just off the QEW in Stoney Creek.
Then it’s small-town time! If you know your way around the province, you might recognize the entrance to town as Elora. It’s Metcalfe Street, looking into town.
These scenes were shot down on the Grand River. Apparently they broke the ice into smaller pieces so residents could rest easy knowing nothing would happen to the Tooth of Time.
Some of the small-town stuff was shot there, but (no offense, Elora!) other parts were shot in the more picturesque Niagara-on-the-Lake. You can see the a bit of the quaintness here…
…and a bit more of Queen Street, with the Prince of Wales Inn in the back, here.
Calling Trapped in Paradise a “hidden gem” might be a stretch. After all, Jon Lovitz called it “Trapped in Shit” and basically said the director was an absentee nutbar—but that’s probably not Toronto’s fault. If the movie had succeeded, it’s possible Bad Boys would have gone forward with Lovitz and Carvey as originally planned, and history would have been so very different. You’re welcome, people of Earth?
Correction, September 2: This article originally incorrectly identified an awning visible in the background of one scene in Trapped in Paradise as being the awning of Brookfield Place. In fact, it is the awning of Commerce Court.