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Hawaii at the Movies


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North Shore (1987)

Either you’ve never heard of this film, or you’re already quoting your favorite passage. That’s the beauty of a so-bad-it’s-good cult film. Calling this ’80s precursor to Blue Crush “cult” may be an exaggeration, but it has gained a following since its forget table theatrical debut.

North Shore is about Rick Kane (Matt Adler), an Arizona teen who, after dominating the wave pool, thinks he is ready for the Pipeline Masters. After a rough welcome in a Keeaumoku strip club, Rick stumbles to the North Shore where he meets Turtle (John Philbin). A haole with a more “off” than “on” pidgin, Turtle takes Rick under his wing, teaching him the way of the North Shore: don’t mess with Da Hui, don’t date local girls and respect the wave.

Sounds cheesy? It is. But you have to give the film credit for its roundup of local and international professional surfers such as Gerry Lopez, Laird Hamilton and Derek Ho. Kiani’s (Nia Peeples) hula also earns the movie some extra authenticity points. But Turtle’s choice of slang (“Barney,” meaning an inexperienced person, among others) made me wonder if the movie was set in California or Hawaii.

North Shore is not to be confused with the 1991 so-bad-it’s-just-bad film, Point Break, starring Keanu Reeves as an undercover FBI agent infiltrating the surf world. Parts of that film were shot in Hawaii, but it’s a California story all the way.

Hawaii Authenticity: 3
Entertainment Value: 5


Hawaii (1966)

By the time I reached the second hour of this three-hour-plus film, I began fumbling with the VCR player (yes, VCR player). Clearly, I thought, that dinosaur must be broken. After all, it’s been collecting dust since my DVD player arrived circa 1998. This film could not possibly go on for another hour. But somehow, director George Roy Hill squeezes out 89 more painful minutes.

Based on the third chapter of James Michener’s epic novel, the film follows a missionary’s efforts to convert and educate Hawaii’s hedonistic natives. Featuring infanticide, incest and infectious diseases, George Roy Hill’s film could play like a Korean soap. What sets Hawaii apart is its historical aspirations.

When the Hawaiians are stricken with fever and flock en mass to the shore to cool off, we realize, as does Rev. Hale after this scene, that the uptight, learned missionaries brought more death, disease and exploitation to Hawaii than salvation.

Hale is played by Max von Sydow, his wife by Julie Andrews. In a way, Native Hawaiians get plenty of screen time as the Alii Nui Malama and her son, Prince Keoki, argue about whether to keep the old ways or adopt Christianity. However, Malama was played by a Tahitian actress, Jocelyne LaGarde, who spoke only French and had to learn her English lines for the film phonetically. Prince Keoki was played by Fijian-born actor Manu Topou.

The film drags on, but at least tries to portray something meaningful about our history.

Hawaii Authenticity: 4
Entertainment Value: 2


50 First Dates (2004)

Pidgin should only be spoken under strict supervision. After all, many actors have attempted the Hawaii slang, but few have succeeded. Rob Schneider is not one of them.

In 50 First Dates, Schneider plays a glass-eyed moke, Ula. Paired with a barfing walrus and a cloud of suspicious smoke, Ula must use what few brain cells he has left to help out pal Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) win over Lucy (Drew Barrymore). If that isn’t complicated enough, Lucy has short-term memory loss.

Schneider aside, 50 First Dates has a strong supporting cast. Sue (Amy Hill) and Nick (Pomaikai Brown) delivered amusing performances as the owners of Lucy’s favorite hangout, the Hukilau Café. The only let down in the film was seeing the diner on screen. Hukilau Café, with its wooden interior, local-style plate lunches and warm staff had me Google “Hukilau, Kaaawa.” Who wouldn’t want to eat there? Unfortunately, this Hukilau was Hollywood made. With so many great eateries on Oahu, couldn’t the film have used one of them?

Hawaii Authenticity: 5
Entertainment Value: 6

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Honolulu Magazine March 2018
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