The Blue Lagoon
Sony // 1980 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Return To The Blue Lagoon
Sony // 1991 // 101 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // March 18th, 2005
A sensuous story of natural love.
With its two young stars and copious nudity, The Blue Lagoon achieved instant notoriety when it was released in theaters back in 1980. Eleven years later, it was followed by one of the most unnecessary and redundant sequels ever produced. This double-feature release of the desert island franchise suggests that at least one of the films has a few treasures waiting to be discovered.
Two children who are lost at sea wash up on a South Seas island. As they grow up, they discover love in their remote paradise.
Director Randall Kleiser (Grease, Big Top Pee Wee) insists that The Blue Lagoon was his attempt to make an innocent and beautiful movie about two young people discovering their sexuality. Had I heard this back when I was 13 years old, it wouldn't have kept me from drooling over a 15-year-old Brooke Shields frolicking in the ocean as naked as the day God made her. But because I'm no longer 13 and such behavior from a man my age could qualify as a felony, I'm now inclined to view the film through a different, hopefully more mature, lens.
The Blue Lagoon is indeed innocent and, in some ways, remarkably beautiful. Kleiser and screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart are to be commended for making a movie about young people that is sensual but never obscene. Unfortunately, it's sabotaged by silly performances and even sillier dialogue. I'm not sure which to blame first. Tanned and fit, Shields and Christopher Atkins are certainly attractive enough as castaways Emmeline and Richard to hold an audience's attention. Everyone should be lucky enough to look this good while waiting for their ship to come in. But neither actor finds the right tone for playing these characters. They are whiney and prone to temper tantrums when they should be hardened from exposure. Atkins, especially, spends a great deal of time stomping around in an angry huff. Poor Shields, meanwhile, is too busy keeping her brown mane demurely in place to concentrate on such matters as character development.
It doesn't help that Stewart's dialogue undercuts its characters at every turn, particularly during a few unintentionally funny moments when they address their changing bodies and new feelings. A certain degree of naïveté is to be expected, sure, but one can't help but chuckle when Richard talks about having a "funny feeling" in his stomach while lying next to Emmeline. Perhaps some overripe papaya is disagreeing with him?
The biggest disappointment, though, is that Kleiser and Stewart refused to take the story in interesting directions. In addition to being a romance, it could have been a rousing South Seas adventure or a gritty tale of survival. Or why not all three? The movie flirts with the idea by introducing the threat of island natives who make human sacrifices, but then quickly drops it. Instead, it focuses entirely on the characters' sexual awakening, touching only occasionally on the harsh, sad realities inherent in the story's premise. One of the few moments that effectively illustrates how time and isolation can dissolve even the most deeply ingrained memories is when Richard and Emmeline sing Christmas carols from their childhood, only to forget the words. The moment is both funny and heartbreaking, and Atkins and Shields play it well. Otherwise, the story is pure fantasy. How else does one describe a movie in which marooned characters live in a beachfront, split-level hut that would be at home in Club Med?
That said, The Blue Lagoon looks and sounds breathtaking. Shot almost entirely on location on and around the Fiji islands, the film is alive with colorful coral reefs, majestic waterfalls and lush jungles. Cinematographer Néstor Almendros captures it all, turning out some of his finest work, and it couldn't possibly look more beautiful than it does on this disc. The film is presented in both widescreen anamorphic and full-screen formats. The colors are rich and strong, and, with a few minor exceptions, the image is remarkably clean of scratches and grain. Basil Poledouris' large and romantic score sounds incredible thanks to the Dolby 2.0 surround. The sound is full and well-balanced, providing a very pleasant listening experience.
The Blue Lagoon is labeled as a special edition, and it includes two highly informative and entertaining audio commentaries. The first begins with Kleiser and Stewart, who cover all aspects of the production, from early casting decisions to working with island natives (who taught the actors many of the skills they use in the film). Shields shows up a half hour into the commentary and offers her perspective. All three talk nonstop, and they have a fine time sharing stories. For the second commentary, Kleiser is joined by Atkins, who shows much more personality than he does in the film. He provides amusing stories about tanning and having to spend so much of his shooting time sans clothes.
The Blue Lagoon also includes a brief making-of featurette from 1980, talent files, Shields' photo scrapbook and the original theatrical trailer. The full-screen trailer is incredibly grainy and rough, which only calls attention to how fantastic the film itself looks on this disc.
The instantly forgettable Return to the Blue Lagoon picks up where The Blue Lagoon left off and follows that film's blueprint right up until the third act. Brian Krause plays Richard and Emmeline's son, also named Richard, who has the misfortune to wash back onto the same island after drifting away with his parents at the end of the original. This time, he's marooned with Lilli, played by the fetching Milla Jovovich. As pretty as the actors are, their characters display no passion for each other, or at least none that's visible on screen. It's as if they looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and said, "You're here. I'm here. Hell, we might as well do it." It wouldn't surprise me if they sealed the deal with a secret club handshake.
There's really little else to say about Return to the Blue Lagoon, other than it wastes the lovely tropical backdrop with pedantic camerawork. This time around, the beach setting looks so ordinary you half expect to find a bait and tackle shop or a Maverick Market just over the next sand dune. Wouldn't that be convenient? After all, Jovovich and and Krause look so bored, they might as well be standing around snacking on Ding Dongs and Diet Pepsi waiting for the final credits to roll.
Return to the Blue Lagoon has a clean transfer with bold, vivid colors and few artifacts or scratches, but it's provided only in a full screen format. For a film intended to capitalize on a tropical island's natural beauty, that's a big no no. As with The Blue Lagoon, the Dolby 2.0 surround audio is quite satisfactory. In fact, it's probably the best thing about the disc. For extras, we get the original theatrical trailer, as well as one for Mr. Deeds. Wait, huh? Mr. Deeds? No, I don't get the connection either.
For all of its flaws, The Blue Lagoon is a treat for the eyes and ears. How disappointing, though, that Kleiser and Stewart didn't have higher ambitions for the story. As for Return to the Blue Lagoon, the less said the better. Still, you'll find the set for around $15, so it's not a bad deal if you feel so inclined.
For its excellent work on The Blue Lagoon, Sony is cleared of all charges. Return to the Blue Lagoon deserves to be sacrificed to the ancient island god, Gonnasuckabigtime. Case dismissed.
Review content copyright © 2005 Bryan Pope; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice, The Blue Lagoon
Perp Profile, The Blue Lagoon
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Distinguishing Marks, The Blue Lagoon
* Commentary with director Randal Kleiser, writer Douglas Day Stewart, and Brooke Shields
* Commentary with director Randal Kleiser and Christopher Atkins
* "Brooke Shields' Photo Album"
* Original Featurette
* Talent Files
Scales of Justice, Return To The Blue Lagoon
Perp Profile, Return To The Blue Lagoon
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Portuguese)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Distinguishing Marks, Return To The Blue Lagoon
* IMDb: The Blue Lagoon
* IMDb: Return to the Blue Lagoon