The intertwined lives of two kindred souls with ambition begins when Captain Whip Hoxworth discovers that Nyuk Tsin has been smuggled aboard as part of cargo on The Carthaginian, which he ... See full summary »
The intertwined lives of two kindred souls with ambition begins when Captain Whip Hoxworth discovers that Nyuk Tsin has been smuggled aboard as part of cargo on The Carthaginian, which he captains, a cargo supposed to consist of only male Chinese workers bound for Hawaii. Nyuk Tsin was kidnapped from her Haaka village to be sold to a Honolulu brothel. She is spared when Mun Ki claims she is his wife, and Hoxworth goes along with his wife's suggestion that they can work in the Hoxworth household as domestic servants. Nyuk Tsin becomes known to all as Wu Chow's Auntie (Aunt of Five Continents) when her five sons are named after continents (with Mun Ki's wife in China regarded as their official mother). Whip founds an empire in pineapples, using Japanese laborers, after smuggling his first seed crop from French Guiana as Wu Chow's Auntie grows a family business in Honolulu around her sons. Written by
Given the epic nature of James Michener's thousand-page novel "Hawaii," if the first film did any kind of positive business whatsoever, a sequel was bound to happen. The result is actually quite good, though nowhere near as good as George Roy Hill's original. Practically none of the original cast or crew has returned. Hill was succeeded as director by Tom Gries; Trumbo and Taradash are replaced on script duty by James R. Webb ("How the West Was Won," "Cheyenne Autumn"), who certainly had a bizarre gift for crafting intelligible and reasonably entertaining stories out of momentous historical hoopla. And since it takes place a couple generations after the end of the first film, obviously the cast is all gone. Charlton Heston adds more than prestige (he also adds presence and strength) to the central character of Whip Hoxworth, with Geraldine Chaplin decent but underused as his odd wife Purity. Mako is terrific as a Chinese peasant farmer who comes to Hawaii after cheating himself a new wife-- Char Nyuk Tsin, played by Tina Chen in a performance that starts off rather uninteresting but blossoms into a real stunner. The story goes on through racial strife, economic and ecological developments on the islands, political turmoil, and personal tragedy, very much in the spirit of the first "Hawaii" but without all the buildup (remember how much time had passed before we saw the islands in the first one?) and with a quicker pace. The film is lush, intriguing, and adequately enacted, but there are a few obstacles to overcome before you can really get into it. The worst of these is Henry Mancini's tacky, obvious, ethnic cliché-infused score, which comes nowhere near the scope, emotion or wonderment of Elmer Bernstein's original. If Bernstein couldn't have been secured, surely there was a better option (Jerry Goldsmith springs to mind) than Henry "The Pink Panther" Mancini. But the score does have a few moments of... well, adequacy. Given that the film obviously failed and-- having never been released on either VHS or mass-market DVD-- both suffers in obscurity while toiling in notoriety, and given that the first film was (at least to this reviewer) almost thoroughly a masterpiece, "The Hawaiians" is much better than can be expected. And compared to the lame sequels that stuff the cineplexes these days, it plays off like a "Citizen Kane" or a "Godfather."
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