SIX DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS (1998) ** 1/2
Who the director Ivan Reitman is, I know. When the four-year old was brought to Canada from his native Czechoslovakia, his genes must have carried a Czech love of laughter that later, as producer-director, Reitman transferred to his comedies and farces. The best-known are "Meatballs, " "Stripes, " "Ghostbusters, " "Twins, " "Kindergarten Cop, " "Dave. " Whatever their artistic merit, most of them were box-office-busters.
Who the writer Michael Browning is, I cannot find out. Deciphering the frustratingly less-than-meager information about him in the pressbook for "Six Days, Seven Nights" seems to say that he has sold some scripts but that this may be his first produced effort. Watching "6D7N" however, does make one thing clear: Browning has seen a lot of Hollywood pics and built (some might say cobbled) his scenario from more films than you can shake a schtick at.
Savvy moviegoers could play a parlor game about sources: From Here to Eternity, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, Swept Away, Swiss Family Robinson, The Admirable Crichton, Father Goose, the Flight of the Phoenix, perhaps Sands of the Kalahari, Butch Cassidy, the Indiana Jones movies, many more. Plus the hundreds of romantic comedies where tue love begins as antagonism. Plus those in which X is engaged to Y but it is Z who finally gets X.
Does all this matter? I can't tell. The film plays it safe by being mainstream stuff for mainstream audiences. It is a no-brainer that makes its public laugh a lot. Exacting viewers may dismiss it, yet won't be bored. The scenery is beautiful, the casting good, the performers appealing, the dialogue amusing.
New Yorker Robin (Anne Heche pronounced "Haych") is a hotshot assistant editor at "Dazzle, " one of those glossy femme-mags that print articles such as "20 ways to reduce your derriere, snag a man, make up for travel in Tierra del Fuego, put down your boss, " while inventing statistics about sex or marriage.
Though frantically busy, Robin accepts the offer of Frank (David Schwimmer) her boyfriend for three years, to fly to an island paradise in French Polynesia for the kind of stay that travel brochures (and the movie's title) advertise. From Tahiti to their final destination, conditions make the couple go in a small cargo plane, a vintage DeHavilland Beaver, four-seater puddle-jumper that's like a rickshaw with a propeller. Its owner/pilot is Quinn Harris (Harrison Ford), who has good looks, a sense of humor, and, as it turns out, had quit a profitable business for a simple, idyllic life. Shades of Gauguin and other, real or fictional European immigrants to the South Pacific.
Coming along is sexy Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors), Quinn's part-time girl-friend, part-time hoochie-koochie dancer, part-time whatever (not clear). In the pricey hotel on the secluded island, Quinn gets sloshed to the point of trying to pick up Robin whom he doesn't remember. He gets some action with Angelica. Frank comes up with an engagement ring. But into each life, a little rain must fall. Frantically calling from New York, her editor wants Robin fly to Tahiti on a pop in and out assignment.
Robin bribes Quinn, who's not above upping the ante. They get caught in a storm, crash-land on an unidentifiable, deserted, gorgeous island played by the Hawaiian island of Kauai where dozens of exotic movies have been shot. All along there is some nice banter with some good reactions and repartee. Radio communications are kaput. Aha! Ignoring the fact that this is not New York, smartypants Robin comes up with her cellular phone. Zero results. (I wish Harrison Ford had said "Toto, I think we're not in Kansas any more. ")
You guess the rest, but not its style, which is rather laid back for a romantic adventure comedy. The cliche antagonism is played way down. So are the mutual attraction and the dialogue. Heche and Ford are very good with comedy and in implying more than is actually spoken out. Both get good mileage from facial and body English, with well-directed timing. Heche, though no great beauty, is pretty, more cute than cutesy, quietly sexy. (A poster I've seen doubles her actual cleavage!). The sex element is discreet, limited to such shots as Ford removing a (symbolic?) snake from the lady's panties; a brief embrace and roll in the surf (cf. From Here to Eternity); and such.
The couple-in-progress keep their sense of humor throughout their rough (including major, Indiana Jones, falls and tumbles), near-fruitless exploration of the spectacular island. Tempers hardly flare. Heche has a knack for showing her reactions by using just her eyes -- which is easier said than done. The budding May-November romance pointedly jokes about Harrison Ford's age but dismisses it as a factor.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (the hotel), Frank ogles Angelica as she dances in a tourist-trap number. Later, as the search for the new Robinsons fails, Frank and Angelica, now united in worry, get soused and in bed. The morning after he feels guilty. She consoles him with "It's like after a funeral, everybody has sex!" His response, an expression of doubt, and hers, a quizzical "Don't they?" look, get high marks.
David Schimmer's supporting role is well conceived. The loser-to-be is an Everyman rather than a boob, like, say, Ralph Bellamy's wealthy Oklahoman yokel in "His Girl Friday. " Neither likable nor offensive, Frank is a cruise-ship sort of romantic, and is sexually aroused in John Doe fashion. Miss Obradors, who some years back was plucked from a supermarket checkout and into TV and a few rather obscure films, does nicely too, except that she looks and sounds rather like a Latina, not a French citizen of Polynesia.
Back to the island again. It is preordained that bummish-at-the ages bon vivant Harrison Ford is also ingenious, will devise ways to survive and avoid a major danger. The latter reminds me of the old advice given by a film composer: "When in doubt, go to the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's 'Messiah'". When in doubt with trapped-on-island stories, bring on the pirates.
Ms. Heche is not, as I've heard it said, a new Carole Lombard. Her style is distinctly her own. She proves that, cause celebre or not (her lesbianism), she can make a wickedly good comedienne. Ford who will very soon be 56, remains as attractive a leading man as ever (the shots of his balding pate are uneven -- now you see it now you don't) and one of the very few performers today who can do no wrong. An experienced pilot, though probably not "an aviation ace" as the pressbook hypes it, he actually pilots the plane in scenes shot from a helicopter.
This may be a Kleenex movie, disposable and forgettable, but paper tissues too have their place in life. The film is a camouflaged, tongue-in-cheek, mild parody of many oldies. Its deja vu aspects do not bother me. What does sadden me as an officer in the Language Police is that Ford pronounces "nucular" for "nuclear," and that the printed information has the star of "Patriot Games" saying that (sic) "Quinn is an ex-patriot American. "