Return To The Blue Lagoon

1991, Movie, PG-13, 98 mins

Review

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A movie whose best features are its lush tropical vistas has evident limitations. In this sequel to THE BLUE LAGOON, itself a remake of the 1949 original starring Jean Simmons and Donald Houston, the idyllic setting is undone by annoyingly coy scenes of gender development and sexuality.

At the end of the 1980 version, Emmeline and Richard, portrayed by Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, set out in an open boat. RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON begins with its sighting at sea by a passing ship. The adults are dead, but their infant son has survived. The widow Mrs. Hargrave (Lisa Pelikan), who already has a baby daughter of her own, adopts the boy. Then the ship doctor diagnoses cholera among the crew, a virtual death sentence for all. To save them, the captain hastily puts Mrs. Hargrave, her children and a sailor in a lifeboat. The cruel tar refuses them water and vows to toss the babies overboard if they continue to cry for lack of it. When he reaches for the boy, Mrs. Hargrave clubs him to death and feeds him to the deep.

Adrift on the vast ocean, the boat eventually reaches the same tropical atoll. Coming ashore is treacherous; enduring the sun, the elements and disease is triple jeopardy. But Mrs. Hargrave manages to provide, aided by the fortuitous discovery of the previous occupants' beachfront hideaway. She transforms the shack into a condo fit for a honeymoon. Alas, having raised Lillian and Richard to self-sufficiency, the young matron contracts a fatal disease. But not before she imparts to them the proper, basic Victorian terms for gender differentiation and procreation, and warns them never to visit the north side of the island where, every third full moon, heathen natives of unknown origin or custom gather for a ritual. Mother is buried on a scenic promontory overlooking the reef. The children must now fend for themselves.

The film omits any childhood crises of mishap, illness or weather and cuts straight to those tempestuous teen years. Richard (Brian Krause) and Lilli (Milla Jovovich) have become highly resourceful, but their preoccupation with survival is diverted by an awareness of each other as sexual beings. Time may stand still, but not adolescent hormones. Richard loses the child's play Easter-egg hunt and dives to find Lilli an adult's pearl as her reward. She has her first period, just as Mother described the threshold of womanhood. Richard awakens in the morning with a condition not uncommon to men who dream of intimate encounters. But who or what may have been the subject of this fantasy, other than Lilli, the only human he has seen in a decade, is evidently not an issue.

Richard's penchant for contesting the domain of the lagoon shark by daring it to a swimming race sparks a domestic quarrel. Lilli thinks he's foolhardy, but the exhilaration makes Richard feel manly. A new thirst for danger leads him, on a full-moon day, to the north side of the island. He wanders into a sacred burial site just as--what else?--a platoon of aborigines arrive for their quarterly rites. Richard camouflages himself with mud and hides in the muck. He escapes unscathed, though not unseen, by a lone native who may think Richard a god. Lilli's anxiety over his disappearance and Richard's gratitude for it deepens their emotional bond, so it seems fitting they should tie the knot.

Their marital bliss is disturbed one day by a ship on the horizon. The captain and crew, seeking water ashore, to their astonishment find our comely English-speaking couple. As is the wont of Western men, one of the scurvy sailors covets the pearl in Lilli's hair, and Lilli herself. Sylvia (Nana Coburn), the captain's daughter, lusts equally for the young stallion. While she schemes a seduction, the sailor ogles Lilli in her bath, then drags her to the hut so he can take the jewel and the girl. Richard will have none of Sylvia, and no assault on his pregnant wife. The nasty bachelor and young husband struggle across the tidal reef into the lagoon kingdom of the shark.

The intrusive ship retreats over the horizon, no doubt soon to report the isle's inhabitants and portend the end of this tiny Eden. Richard, Lilli and their baby boy have few carefree days ahead. But without a great stake in their welfare, and no pressing issues of personal and sensual freedom, ecological balance or the relations of men and women to resolve, we are left with little more than a quaint, pretty postcard. (Brief partial nudity.) leave a comment

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