DVD - 2005
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Based on James A. Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a New England farm boy who has decided that the Lord has commanded him to go to Hawaii in order to Christianize its inhabitants.
Publisher: Santa Monica, CA : Metro Goldwyn Mayer Home Entertainment, [2005]
ISBN: 9780792866725
Branch Call Number: MOVIE HAW
Language Note: English dialogue, English, French or Spanish subtitles; closed-captioned
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (approximately 161 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in
Alternative Title: Hawaii


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May 05, 2016

Based on James Michener’s novel, George Roy Hill’s tropical saga follows the colonization and subsequent exploitation of the Hawaiian Islands and their inhabitants—first by well-meaning missionaries and later by less altruistic entrepreneurs. Although the film’s anti-colonial stance rings loud and clear (the sins and hypocrisies of the church are duly noted) Hill takes some care not to portray the aboriginals as wholly innocent naïfs or, even worse, clichéd “noble savages”. Golden Globe winner Jocelyn LaGarde’s portrayal of the island’s corpulent and iron-willed Ali’i Nui, or spiritual matriarch, is a compelling mixture of youthful zeal (“You teach me write English!”) and grim resolve which provides a dramatic contrast to Sydow’s evangelical arrogance. Alas, against these two strong performances Julie Andrews role as the fiery reverend's dutiful wife comes across as an anemic reinvention of Maria von Trapp sans habit and musical mountains. Thankfully Dalton Trumbo’s keen script manages to hold its own against all those Panavision scenes of heaving oceans and palm-fringed lagoons, and Elmer Bernstein’s Oscar-nominated score blends it all together. Even Hill’s occasional lapses into dramatic overkill wherein supernatural credence is given to both Christian and pagan superstitions are quickly forgiven when he presents them as dramatic catalysts rather than bona fide spiritual phenomena. A long sprawling epic with an impressive supporting cast including Carroll O’Connor and a very young Gene Hackman. Keep an eye out for an unknown and uncredited Bette Midler heaving ho as a seasick missionary’s wife.

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