Six Days, Seven Nights

sixdaysAh, the busy urban woman — all she needs is a rugged manly man to set her straight. So we were told by The Horse Whisperer, and so we are told again by Six Days Seven Nights, the latest bland throwback pretending it isn’t one. Here, the overworked woman is Anne Heche, who gives the movie a lot more wit and spark than it deserves, and is rewarded by being put through the standard simplify-your-life drill. You know, lots of women work at magazines and supervise photo shoots. They can’t all be yearning for the Marlboro Man to Calgon them away from their lives.

As the movie opens, Heche’s Robin Monroe (half sidekick, half blonde bombshell?) is involved with an unabashedly romantic guy who has the misfortune to be played by David Schwimmer. They fly to a vacation paradise, courtesy of gruff pilot Quinn Harris (Harrison Ford), and as soon as Robin meets Quinn you know it’s all over for Schwimmer; he might as well just go home and sit out the rest of the movie. Which he practically does, anyway. A business emergency forces Robin to fly over to Tahiti in the middle of her vacation, she pays Quinn $700 to get her there, and a storm knocks the plane down onto some remote island en route.

The fact that I was so conscious of the script’s mechanics — how conveniently it sets up the romance between Robin and Quinn — told me it wasn’t working. Six Days Seven Nights is reasonably painless for a while, because Heche and Ford have an off-center rapport; she gets Ford to loosen up, and I chuckled at him a few times. Still, all I responded to was the actors having fun on the set. I never bought the growing love between the two, because they’re essentially pale copies of Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in one of the main templates for this sort of opposites-attract comedy, The African Queen. Ford, if anything, is a little too hearty here. When he talks about a lost love, his words have no weight. And he overplays his drunk scene (which he didn’t do in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where he seemed to have more depth and experience at 38 than he does here at 55).

About halfway through, the movie goes to Hollywood hell. Director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) and rookie screenwriter Michael Browning come up with a band of pirates, with such great iconic character actors as Temuera Morrison (a long way from Once Were Warriors) and Danny Trejo among the villains trying to kill Quinn and Robin. The pirates add nothing to the plot; they’re there to keep it going, but they just bring it to a halt. Meanwhile, Schwimmer sits around at the vacation paradise and somehow catches the eye of Quinn’s ripe young girlfriend (the cheerfully one-note Jacqueline Obradors) — a surpassingly synthetic plot device meant to grease the wheels for guilt-free infidelity all around.

Ivan Reitman has never been an artist, but at least when he first came to Hollywood his comedies had a scruffy charm; movies like Meatballs, Stripes and Ghostbusters now seem in retrospect to owe much of their appeal to Bill Murray. Reitman now makes Hollywood entertainment that is perfectly handsome (cinematographer Michael Chapman does some fine, burnished work here) and perfectly banal (Randy Edelman’s score is like a glaze of generic-comedy music shellac over everything). The question of whether audiences will accept Anne Heche as a hetero partner for Harrison Ford turns out to be irrelevant. The question is really whether audiences will accept this same old plastic stuff again. I’d guess they won’t. I hope not, anyway.

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