A sort of annoying and also kind of charming actor, Jack Noah (Richard Dreyfuss), is shooting a film on location in the (fictional) country of Parador when its seemingly benevolent dictator, Alphonse Simms, suddenly dies. The dictator’s right-hand man, Roberto Strausman (Puerto Rican actor Raul Julia), makes Jack an offer he can’t refuse-impersonate Simms… or die! Jack’s acting skills fool the masses, but not the palace staff; they play along to keep their jobs. Simms’ mistress/nightclub dancer, Madonna Mendez (Brazilian actress Sonia Braga), decides to help Jack play his role convincingly.
Jack: [after being asked to be the dead dictator’s imposter] Why couldn’t you get Bobby DeNiro or Dustin Hoffman?
Roberto: Not available! I would have given my right arm to work with Bobby DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman!
Jack: [under his breath] They always say that about DeNiro and Hoffman.
The plot of this comedy was re-used for the movie Dave (1993) starring Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver. In the age of Trump (often called a wanna be dictator), it’s not far-fetched to see a leader w/ dark makeup, who makes appearances at beauty pageants, and avoids questions from the press. However, this dictator cares for the regular people! Dreyfuss played dual roles of both Jack and the double of Pres. Alphonse Simms; the real Simms was played by his brother Lorin. When Jack is applying make-up to look like Simms in the meat locker, Dreyfuss’ brother is playing the part of the corpse. This movie received two Golden Globe Award noms in 1989- Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Braga and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Julia. Even w/ big hair and wild/revealing outfits, Braga’s soulful characterization shines through. Julia (sporting blonde hair) creates a sadistic/power-hungry villain w/ a maniacal laugh… and a brain (he went to Harvard).
The country’s name of Parador is a mash-up of Paraguay (PARA) and Ecuador (DOR). The 14 families that control Parador refer to the 14 families that (in reality) controlled El Salvador in the early 1970s. Ralph (Jonathan Winters) tells a long story re: an English pirate who founded the country of Parador (to explain why Simms has an Anglo-Saxon name). The real reason is that the film was shot in Brazil, and director Paul Mazursky needed a shot of a crowd of extras chanting the dictator’s name. When the crowd is chanting “Simms,” they are actually saying “Sim” (“yes” in Portuguese). There are scenes from Carnivale; people of all ages w/ various skin tones dance and party.
Moon Over Parador pokes fun at government and show business, which is filled w/ many neurotic/egotistical actors. It contains many references to pop culture, incl. A Streetcar Named Desire, Casablanca, Dynasty, and Hollywood Squares. Jack is dressed like Don Johnson during his Miami Vice years (complete w/ a blonde mullet wig) when filming the movie in the first act; a young Dana Delaney plays his leading lady. During a scene where Jack has to address the crowd as Simms, he ad-libs and uses lines from The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha. Only Roberto (a theater buff) gets this reference, which is a call-back to Julia’s leading role (Don Quixote) in the Broadway musical. Fans of SVU- look out for Dann Florek (one of Jack’s NYC actor pals). The earlier national anthem (O Parador) is sung to the tune of O Christmas Tree. After Jack changes the song, Sammy Davis Jr. (wow) sings it to the tune of Besame Mucho. Dick Cavett (playing himself) interviews Simms and Madonna in the third act of the film.
 …this movie is funny, yet has a serious side as well… the main character, who at the start of the movie is a struggling actor and somewhat of a buffoon, evolves too and by the end of the movie commands respect.
 Paul Mazursky’s film is under-rated in my opinion; maybe because the film never takes itself seriously.
…quite clever issues are brought out, as Noah begins to enjoy his role and tries to bring in social reforms.
 Is it appropriate to turn the tense situation in Latin America into comedy? Well, “Moon Over Parador” does a good job with it. No matter what they do in this movie, they pull it off.
-Excerpts from IMDB reviews