One's reaction to Hawaii may depend upon the version one sees, as there are several different cuts readily available -- but in any of its forms, Hawaii is at least a little too long. The James Michener novel on which it is based is itself a lengthy read, but even though the film concentrates on only one section of the novel, it tends to drag on. Adapting the Michener behemoth into a standard motion picture (as opposed to perhaps a television miniseries) was probably an impossible task for any screenwriter, but the work of Dalton Trumbo and Daniel Taradash is immensely disappointing. Both are talented screenwriters, but Hawaii is a turgid melodrama that only hints at their abilities. Director George Roy Hill does not help matters appreciably, pacing things sluggishly and creating action sequences that lack the intended impact. With all this against it, it's surprising that Hawaii is actually pretty good. Credit the excellent cast, with Max von Sydow at his self-righteous and imperious best and Julie Andrews a delight, and especially powerful during the famous childbirth sequence. There's also some scrumptious Russell Harlan lensing of some gorgeous location scenery, some good special effects, and colorful Dorothy Jeakins costumes. None of this makes Hawaii a great drama -- or a shorter one -- but it is diverting.
by Craig Butler review