If you're my age - fortysomethingish - and wish you could occasionally take your young ones to a rousing adventure film of the kind they used to make when you were a kid, Walt Disney Pictures is delivering the goods.
"Shipwrecked" is the kind of old-fashioned, rousing entertainment we'd given up for lost, an unapologetic good time sans the spoofy approach employed by what few pirate pictures the '80s brought to us (Roman Polanski's "Pirates," with Walter Matthau, being the prime example).On the contrary, "Shipwrecked" hearkens back to "Treasure Island," though the villain here is decidedly more malevolent than Robert Newton's Long John Silver ever seemed.
Though filmed in English, this is actually Norwegian, based on a famous Norwegian novel ("Haakon Haakonsen) about a young teenager (very well played by Stian Smestad) in 1873 Norway who signs on as "ship's boy" to save his family's farm after his father becomes crippled.
Naturally, the lad encounters more than he could ever have bargained for when he eventually runs into pirates, led by the notorious John Merrick (viciously performed by Gabriel Byrne, of "Miller's Crossing").
The final third of the film parallels the ads you've seen on TV, with the boy finding himself marooned on a remote island where he stumbles upon a pirate's treasure - only to see the pirates themselves return to get it. In some ways that sequence resembles a "Swiss Family Robinson" version of "Home Alone," as he sets booby traps all over the island for the pirates. (The film's weakest element is a comic-relief ape that harasses the boy in two scenes.)
But the first two-thirds of the film, which sets everything up as we see the boy learning the ways of the sea and ships, developing several supporting players in fine fashion along the way, was, for me, the most compelling. No slipshod, ill thought-out adventure this as director/co-screenwriter Nils Gaup employs significant details to add an intimate richness that is all too lacking in modern epic filmmaking. He also knows how to use spectacular locations, of which there are more than a few here. (Though he could have used a few less full-face closeups in the film's early scenes.)
That will come as no surprise to those who saw Gaup's first film, "Pathfinder," a Norwegian film that garnered rave reviews and a fairly large audience a couple of years ago. Gaup is a filmmaker to watch for in the future.
Meanwhile, "Shipwrecked" is a terrific action picture for kids and adults - and darned if it won't make you feel like you've gone back in time to an era when Saturday matinees were something you looked forward to all week.
Between this and "White Fang," one would almost think Disney is beginning to find its way back to the family audience with live-action as well as animated films!
"Shipwrecked" is rated PG for violence, none of it particularly gruesome.