Thanks to writer Peter David, I know that when some authors make their work available for adaption by movie studios they do so unconditionally, letting the studios make whatever changes they want. That certainly explains how Anne Rice's erotic drama-romance novel became the Garry Marshall 1994 comedy Exit to Eden. The result is... flawed.
Exit to Eden is three movies squeezed into one. The first movie is a police flick, with undercover police officers Sheila (Rosie O'Donnell) and Fred (Dan Aykroyd) on the trail of murdering diamond smuggler Omar (Stuart Wilson) and his partner Nina (model Iman). Omar has never been photographed, until Australian photographer Elliot (Paul Mercurio) snapped his picture at an airport, leading both cops and criminals racing to get to Elliot and his film. Unfortunately for both, Elliot has gone to Eden, a BDSM island resort.
The second movie here is a comedy, as Shelia and Fred go to Eden undercover, as a guest and maintenance man, respectively. Most of the humor comes from Fred being uptight on an island of hedonists, while Sheila keeps spurning the advances of her submissive Tommy (Sean O'Bryan).

The third movie is a romance, as Elliot falls for Mistress Lisa (the lovely Dana Delany), who runs Eden. This plot is closest to the original novel (though toned down somewhat), but compressed as it competes with the other two plots for screen time.

Sadly, these three plots don't mesh into one satisfying movie. Top its credit, Exit to Eden resists the usual cinematic urge to portray kinky folks as either evil or goofy (though Tommy falls into the latter category). But the police story is extremely simple, and most of the comedy consists of O'Donnell's annoying shtick (which is almost every line she has) and Aykroyd acting uptight.

Then there's the romance. This might have worked -- the two actors are certainly attractive enough -- but there's not enough time on screen for it to feel anything but rushed. (I'm also very skeptical that a dominatrix in charge of a hedonistic island would start acting like a schoolgirl with a crush so quickly.) And if anyone's interested in this movie for prurient reasons, it does feature almost much male nudity as female (though the men don't get the occasional full-frontal treatment the women do). And if you ever wanted to see O'Donnell in a leather bustier, this may be your only chance.

Exit to Eden could have been a decent romance, or even a decent softcore porno (it had very nice costuming and a beautiful island), but by mixing those elements with attempted comedy and a typical cop plot it became an unfortunate muddle of genres that never fit together. Changing the original work so much absolutely did not work.

Overall grade: D
Reviewed by James Lynch

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