Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Case for Wisdom

Come the end of Three Wise Cousins, I had one burning question.  Who were the 3 Wise Cousins?  Not the leads, surely?  Perhaps at most two of them were wise, so where was the third one?  Then I thought: perhaps it was the young children who barely had speaking roles who were the wise cousins?  But… was that truly the case?

It was one of the few questions I had from the film as really the movie is very straight forward.  Young man searches out his ancestral/tribal roots to try and woo a woman, but instead learns a much more valuable lesson about respecting himself and his family.  Its almost nauseating just writing it.

But the film itself is more – and less – than the sum of its parts.  Some of the acting is fairly dire (though only a Polynesian woman could deliver the lines about defriending her family because she is mad with them so deadpan and so witheringly), and there are scenes that stretch out for agonising minutes when they could have been over in seconds.  But I laughed regularly, got swept up in the island life, and was emotionally manipulated by the characters in all the ways they intended.

There is nothing new under the Samoan sun, but there is a very strong moral, family values message that needs to be told.  In a way it was surprising to see a film so straight and narrow and focussed, with strong Christian values and a sense of the rightness of family tradition and respect.  Normally you would expect to see some sort of rebelliousness, or a character that breaks social norms if for nothing more than for comic relief.  But no: there was no distraction from the outcome, no potential alternative to the message that the film wants to present. The moral certainty is unwavering, the righteousness clear.

And while that might have left me a little uncomfortable, I can’t deny that I found the journey there hilarious and entertaining (if occasionally cringeworthy).  Even the very… well, worthy ending wasn’t enough to wipe the smile (completely) from my face.  And it definitely made me want to go to Samoa, though I may need to make sure I can survive on more than coconut and cocoa beans first.

Verdict: Three Wise Cousins is a very family values movie with lots of laughs and its heart on its sleeve.  The acting won’t win awards, nor will the screenplay, but it doesn’t really need to.  Its well intentioned and squarely aimed at a religious island audience, and for what it is, it succeeds splendidly.  6 smart phones out of 10.