Hawaii on DVD
Julie Andrews gets top billing, though its really Max von
Sydows movie, in this film adaptation of James Micheners epic
novel, directed by George Roy Hill. The film has impeccable credentials;
besides the abovementioned names, we get Richard Harris in the cast as
Andrews unlucky former beau, Walter Mirisch as producer, music by Elmer
Bernstein, and a screenplay from the pens of Dalton Trumbo and Daniel
How could this be anything but a winner?
Hawaii appears to be a forgotten classic and, though it drags a
tad toward the end, it has a lot to offer.
Max von Sydow is frustratingly annoying (which means he plays the
part brilliantly) as the Reverend Abner Hale, the uptight and overzealous
missionary sent to Hawaii to convert the heathen natives to Christianity. But
first he must find a wife wholl go with him, and this presents what seems
to be an insurmountable challenge to the awkward cleric. Fortunately, Julie
Andrews character Jerusha has plenty of character and she not only
willingly falls in love with the guy, but embraces the dangers of the journey
around Cape Horn to the island kingdom willingly as well.
Once there, he does everything wrong if the goal is to win over
the natives. Fortunately, the natives have plenty of character of their own,
despite being heathens, and their good will as well as some good ambassador
work by Jerusha gets them over the culture shock and a working relationship is
The movie spans many years (and that doesnt count the
prolog), giving us an interesting look at the transition of Hawaii from
unspoiled heathen paradise to commercialized Christian tourist trap and while
the natives gain a lot in the bargain, they lose a lot too, and not just their
innocence. But the movie doesnt really moralize excessively about white
Man's guilt, and thats a good thing; it just unfolds and lets us draw our
own conclusions. We do get to see clearly that one of the benefits of
civilization is disease and corruption in a place where, pre-white
man, the people were full of health and life and happiness.
Theres incredible beauty here, indomitable human spirit, and
pain, suffering and loss as well. Its about the evils of intolerance,
greed, power, but also about the beauties and joy of love, forgiveness and
mercy. Why its just like real life!
It takes a while for the movie to actually reach Hawaii, but that
exposition of the recruiting of Von Sydow and his compatriots (including a
young Gene Hackman) and their harrowing voyage serves not only to introduce
these vital characters but to humanize them as well.
The supporting cast is excellent. Jocelyn LaGarde as the wise
Hawaiian matriarch is particularly worthy of mention, a natural screen presence
whos funny and human, but strong and worldly as well.
Julie Andrews is always great, and her performance here is no
different. She is no Mary Poppins nor Maria von Trapp yet shes
still sweet and wise and appealing. She lights up the screen every time
shes there. Von Sydow is also very good, though his accent is harder to
ignore than Andrews. Richard Harris gets third billing for whats
basically a supporting role, but hes still very good as the jilted lover
who has surprising depth of character.
The locations are awe inspiring, which makes it all the more
unfortunate that the DVD is apparently of an unrestored and unremastered
version of the movie. We also read its really a shortened version
(despite it being the original theatrical version) and that theres a
longer, better one out there. Were not sure about that; by the time
Hawaiis final fames unspool we were ready to move on regardless of how
much we enjoyed the movie.
But the video on the DVD is unremarkable. There are a few shots
that look great, but for the most part the movie looks old and worn out and
thats unforgivable when there are such gorgeous shots to enjoy. At least
the DVD is anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible), so owners of widescreen
TVs wont have to stretch and/or zoom the picture and make it look
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and is likewise unremarkable.
For extras, you get a short Making of Hawaii
featurette, the video quality of which makes the movie itself look
state-of-the-art, and the trailer.
Still, its worth at least a rental to see Julie Andrews at
her best, in a compelling epic drama that many people may have forgotten
Hawaii, from MGM Home Entertainment
161 min. anamorphic
widescreen, (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital
Andrews, Max Von Sydow, Richard Harris
produced by Walter Mirisch
written by Dalton Trumbo and Daniel Taradash, directed by George Roy Hill
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