Saturday, May 25, 2013

Movie Review: Shipwrecked

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun action adventure for kids
Cons: Story a bit choppy; one needless scene
The Bottom Line: Pirates and treasure
Hit the seas in this fun flick
Kid in me still loves

Haakon Haakonsen Fights Pirates on the Seven Seas

I have always had a fascination with the sea and sailing, so you can bet that the Disney distributed Shipwrecked was right up my alley.  I first saw it when it was released in the US in 1991 and enjoy pulling it out for a rewatch every few years.

The story is set in the 1850's, and our main character, Haakon Haakonsen (Stian Smestad) works on his family farm while his father is away at sea.  But after an accident, Haakon must go to sea to save the family farm.  He sails on his father's old ship under the watchful eye of Jens (Trond Peter Munch).

Haakon quickly begins to adopt to his new life at sea, but danger lurks not too far below the surface as they take on some additional crew in London and Haakon finds a stowaway after a stop in Australia.  When a hurricane hits the ship, Haakon finds himself stranded on an island.  What secrets might that island hold?  Will he ever get home again?

The film was made starring almost all Norwegian actors and is based on a Norwegian book from the 1870's.  But don't let that scare you away for a moment.  While most of the cast does have faint accents, they are faint accents.  I've never had a problem understanding a word that anyone says.

Because it is a Norwegian production, the actors are pretty much unknowns.  We do have Gabriel Byrne as the villain.  Rounding out the leads is Louisa Haigh as stowaway Mary.  Now just because you've never heard of them, don't worry.  The cast does a great job bringing their characters to life.  Even the large cast of sailors who only have a few scenes are great.

And the scenery is wonderful.  It was filmed on location in Norway, England, and Fiji.  Let me tell you, I would love to spend some time on the island that plays an important part in the final third of the film.

As a kid, I was enraptured with the story.  I would watch it quite a bit and loved every minute of it.  As an adult, I do notice some flaws in the storytelling.  Many of the scenes are short, giving the movie a choppy feel.  Even though the American release was called Shipwrecked (it's Norwegian title is Haakon Haakonsen), you're over half way through before the storm that sinks the ship actually happens.  Granted, the action up to that point is needed to make the rest of the story work, but as an adult I might get a tad frustrated with it if I watched it for the first time.  When I sit down to watch it, the adult is silence by the kid in me who still gets caught up in the story.  Although we both do find the gorilla and its sub-plot laughable.

This movie was not made with tons of special effects.  Instead, we got stunts and real people doing real things.  As much as I enjoy some of the special effects we get today, I do enjoy the realistic feel of this movie.  The stunts aren't anything spectacular, but they do help tell the story.

Even for a PG movie, this film is very tame.  There really is nothing for parents to worry about here.  Since this film does have pirates, there are a few deaths and some violence and intense scenes.  However, they aren't too scary and everything is very bloodless.  Frankly, the scene that bugs me the most is a scene in a port involving a couple of prostitutes.  If they had left those 30 seconds out, it would be perfect.

Shipwrecked is low budget and low tech and all the more charming for it.  Your kids will enjoy the adventure, especially if they love ships, pirates, or both.

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