Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 21, 2005)
Since I intensely disliked 1980’s The Blue Lagoon, did it make sense for me to watch its sequel, 1991’s Return to the Blue Lagoon? Probably not. Why’d I do so? I dunno - masochism?
Whatever the case may be, I indeed decided to give Return a shot to see if it lived up - or down, as it were - to the low standards set by its predecessor. Starting in 1897, Return picks up right where the original flick ended, as a ship comes upon the dinghy that possesses a man, a woman, and a little kid (Jackson Barton). The latter lives, but the parents are dead. The folks on the boat take the boy on with them.
Cholera affects the crew, and they need to find a place to stop soon. Nothing looks promising, so the captain decides to set the sole female inhabitant, widowed Mrs. Sarah Hargrave (Lisa Pelikan), adrift with crewmember Kearney (Wayne Pygram). They’ll also take her baby (Emma James) and the orphaned boy to find the place from which the little boat came.
The foursome sets out and things quickly look unpromising. The unpleasant Kearny thinks they should sacrifice the kids to conserve resources, and when he attempts to toss them overboard, Sarah kills him with a spear to the back.
After a few more days, the trio happens upon an island that they get to despite some rough seas. Eventually they take residence in a spot that looks awfully familiar to little Richard. (Heck, in the movie’s chronology, the characters from the first flick just left there a couple of weeks earlier.) Sarah, Richard and baby Lilli try to make do as best they can in this island paradise all while they hope for rescue.
That doesn’t occur anytime soon, and the movie jumps ahead about seven or eight years. Illness strikes Sarah, and she eventually dies. This leaves the kids to fend for themselves.
From there we leap ahead a few more years to find teenage versions of Richard (Brian Krause) and Lilli (Milla Jovovich). We watch them as they deal with life on their own and their budding sexuality. Eventually a ship arrives at their island, and they have to deal with whether they want to stay or go.
As I watched Return, I experienced a serious case of déjà vu. For the movie’s first two-thirds, it blatantly replicates the original flick. The filmmakers go out of their way to remake the first one. Sure, lots of sequels essentially tell the same tale, but I can’t think of any that so slavishly recreate the prior effort. At times, Return offers a virtual shot-by-shot remake.
The film’s third act does veer onto its own path, but don’t expect those sequences to make it any more interesting. I’m glad that Return eventually makes this token gesture to become its own flick, but it’s too little, too late. These elements steer Return even more into the category of cheesy melodrama and add little else.
As I noted in my review of The Blue Lagoon, that movie suffered from a thin story and weak acting. I think it earned notoriety largely due to the jailbait thrill of the young stars. Back in 1980, Brooke Shields’ precocious charms made her a sensation, and folks flocked to Lagoon to see the semi-taboo results.
The same acting and script problems mar the sequel, but it lacks even the minor sexual charge of the first film. 25 years after its initial release, Lagoon doesn’t provoke much of a reaction, but at least I could sort of see its smutty appeal.
The sequel doesn’t even muster that level of excitement. Bizarrely, the filmmakers chose to produce a “PG-13” rated flick, so it offers much less skin and seems significantly tamer. We get a few fleeting shots of Jovovich’s breasts but that’s it. Why remake a movie notorious for its sexuality and completely eliminate that factor?
Return is so shoddy that it can’t even bother to attempt any continuity. At the end of the first film, Richard’s parents apparently remained alive. However, the sequel decides to kill them, a technique it uses solely so it won’t have to deal with those characters. In addition, Return alters the identities of the rescuers, again for no reason other than storytelling convenience. These become tacky alterations that look sloppy.
A pointless sequel to a terrible movie, Return to the Blue Lagoon exists for no reason other than to attempt to make money. It failed. It came out 11 years after the original, which apparently was too long, as Return bombed. Thank God for some small miracles, since that prevented any more Lagoon flicks. This was an atrocious movie with no redeeming qualities.