Six Days, Seven Nights

(Ivan Reitman, USA, 1998)


Producer-director Ivan Reitman has the dubious honour of being able to churn out vacuous, mechanically efficient, high-concept entertainments (such as Twins, 1988) loaded with star power, glamorous scenery and plots yoking together fun and thrills.

Six Days, Seven Nights finds him in a slightly nostalgic mood, harking back to the romantic road-movie comedies of the 1930s and '40s.

Not that there's much real affinity between this film and It Happened One Night (1934) or The Lady Eve (1942). Its jokey, brittle tone and tourist vistas make it more of a companion to the forgettable Hope-Crosby-Lamour amusements of an earlier era.

At least it has a classic premise: gruff pilot Quinn (Harrison Ford) is forced down in a storm onto a deserted island with city-girl Robin (Anne Heche) – and they must learn to get along in the face of various perils.

Michael Browning's script is crude and underdeveloped – a pale knock-off of Romancing the Stone (1985), exhibiting little cleverness or humour. There are plot set-ups (such as a fleeting bit of seismic activity) without pay-offs. A stray gang of cursing, murderous pirates (including Once Were Warriors [1994] star Temuera Morrison) flits in and out of the movie on cue, adding an unconvincing action element.

Characterisation is thrown overboard when the supposedly sophisticated, modern Robin is made to bleat such charming lines as "there's nothing wrong with my tits!" or express a residual, helpless need for a tough, no-nonsense man.

Similarly, Robin's pining companion Frank (David Schwimmer) – no more than the sum of half a dozen TV-honed mannerisms – never comes into focus as the staid fiancé figure beloved of romantic comedy. Jacqueline Obrador's role as the sexy dancer who leads Frank astray is better forgotten.

What little charm this film generates is due solely to the skill and presence of its two stars. Ford irritates when he has to act goofily, but for the most part his combination of stoicism and embarrassment is a fine comic turn. Heche manages to conquer the demeaning, listless gags handed her, conveying well the passage from tough-nosed career woman to swooning lover.

There is not much to recommend Six Days, Seven Nights, but it is a low-level crowd pleaser. Devotees of the Woodstock generation can watch out for a weird cameo by the singer Taj Mahal – warbling away on stage in this 'tropical paradise' just as numerous natives used to do in Hollywood's high-seas musical comedy confections of the '40s.

MORE Reitman: Dave, Father's Day, Ghostbusters II

© Adrian Martin June 1998

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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