Six Days, Seven Nights (United States, 1998)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The scenery is great, the actors are appealing, and the special effects are suitably low-key… all that's missing from Ivan Reitman's Six Days, Seven Nights is a plot with a moment's originality. This movie takes chunks from Romancing the Stone, The African Queen, From Here to Eternity, and even "Gilligan's Island", throws them into a blender set on "puree," and hopes we won't recognize the familiar taste that results. Actually, there are moments when Harrison Ford and Anne Heche almost make us forget that we've seen all this before. Their tropical island romance has its high points, and certain early portions of the film hint at an unfulfilled promise. Then the pirates show up.

Being stranded on an island is a common fantasy. It's also one of those things that no one in their right mind would want to have really happen. In keeping with this notion, everything in Six Days, Seven Nights is neat, sanitary, and relatively pleasant. There are fresh peacocks ready to be skewered and eaten. No one develops diarrhea after drinking the water. The indigenous life appears to be relatively harmless (a scorpion and a snake both take a liking to Heche, but neither appears predisposed to turn nasty). All-in-all, it appears to be the perfect place to spend a vacation. Until those pesky pirates turn up, that is.

The story is predictably thin. A young, newly-engaged couple, Robin (Heche) and Frank (David Schwimmer), are spending a romantic week at a tropical island resort in the South Pacific. Despite being on vacation, Robin, an assistant editor for Dazzle magazine, is only a phone call away from her boss, and, when duty makes demands, she finds herself in need of a quick flight to Tahiti. For $700, a local fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants pilot, Quinn Harris (Harrison Ford), agrees to leave behind his buxom playmate, Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors), and transport Robin to her destination. However, it's not a smooth trip. Along the way, the duo encounter a storm, their plane is hit by lightning, and they crash land on a deserted island. For the next twenty screen minutes, they pass the time by getting to know one another, tossing around sexual innuendoes, and starting to fall in love. Then the pirates sail into their verdant paradise.

Led by Once Were Warriors' Temura Morrison, these guys are big, bad, greedy, and stupid. Their purpose is painfully evident -- they're on hand to add some action to the proceedings. Who wants to spend ninety minutes watching Quinn and Robin grow closer over cozy peacock dinners? So, instead, we get rubber raft chases, a foot race through a forest, and a fist fight. All of this formulaic action isn't remotely exciting; the only thing it successfully accomplishes is padding out the running time so that the movie clocks in at a "reasonable" length.

The normally-laconic Harrison Ford shows more spunk here than in many of his recent outings. This is an ego-feeding role: Quinn not only gets the girl (who's about half his age) and saves the day, but he is also given the opportunity to engage in the kind of physical exertion that would kill many men 20 years his junior. Anne Heche makes for a decent, if not superlative, romantic sparring partner. She and Ford aren't exactly Hepburn and Tracy, but they trade barbs effectively and develop enough chemistry to keep us from going to sleep. In supporting roles, David Schwimmer manages not to be painfully annoying and Jacqueline Obradors flaunts her obvious assets (which have nothing to do with acting talent).

I suppose in this summer of moribund movies, it's possible to do a lot worse than Six Days, Seven Nights for light, escapist entertainment. Despite being a complete failure when it comes to action/adventure stuff, the movie is adequate as a romantic comedy. And, while the screenplay isn't top-notch, it offers a few genuinely funny one-liners and a couple of scenes of surprisingly effective dialogue. Ever since Ghostbusters, director Ivan Reitman has been a bankable name in Hollywood. Sometimes, however, the on-screen talent he attracts for his movies is better than the material they're asked to work with. Six Days, Seven Nights, although not deserving to be numbered among Reitman's worst missteps, is a perfect example of this.

Six Days, Seven Nights (United States, 1998)

Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer, Jacqueline Obradors, Temuera Morrison
Screenplay: Michael Browning
Cinematography: Michael Chapman
Music: Randy Edelman
U.S. Distributor: Touchstone Pictures
Run Time: 1:40
U.S. Release Date: 1998-06-12
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Situations, Violence, Profanity, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1