Picks and Pans Review: Shipwrecked
Those credits—and the fact that this seafaring saga for kids is based on the book Haakon Haakonsen by Oluf Vilhelm Falck-Ytter—might discourage U.S. audiences. They suggest that this film is strictly from Norway and that its producers were so desperate for a familiar face that they hauled in Byrne, whose acting is usually so dim he might as well be speaking Norwegian.
Well, shiver our timbers if this Disney-financed movie isn't a hearty, rip-growling tale with neo-Treasure Island qualities as well as a hint of Home Alone—with pirates.
Smestad, 14, plays a Norwegian youngster who signs on as a ship's boy on a 19th-century sailing vessel to pay off the family farm's mortgage (interest rates must have been low in those days). Munch, also a Norwegian, is a friendly young seaman.
Once at sea, their ship is taken over by Byrne, a pirate impersonating a British officer. He's about to force the crew into some pirately behavior when a storm scuttles the ship in the South Seas. Smestad winds up on an island, alone except for a gorilla.
Eventually Smestad rejoins Munch and Louisa Haigh, a girl who had stowed away on the ship before the storm. An incipient puppy love is marred by the fact that Smestad, who looks like Yvette Mimieux, is prettier than Haigh. And, of course, the heroic trio battles Byrne, who comes to the island to reclaim buried booty, not knowing Smestad has the place full of nifty booby traps.
Norwegian director Nils Gaup, working with two American writers, keeps the dialogue in idiomatic English (Smestad and Munch speak without accent). The script includes only one even vaguely offensive line—in front of a London prostitute. Munch warns Smestad. "Keep a close watch on your, uh, valuables."
Otherwise this is a typical Disney adventure, with picturesque ocean shots, limited violence and a happy ending. The locations—including Fiji—are well employed. Even Byrne is a hateworthy pirate.
It's all most smoothly done except for the unanswered question of how a gorilla got to the South Pacific. What the heck. King Kong was no docudrama cither. (PG)