Early on in Six Days, Seven Nights, Harrison Ford's drunken beach pilot Quinn Harris offers some advice to Anne Heche's vacationing Robin Monroe. He warns that people often go to isolated island paradises looking for romance. But if you don't bring it with you, you ain't gonna find it. If only the filmmakers would have heeded their leading man's advice.
Six Days, Seven Nights wants to be an adventure-comedy-romance. But Ford and Heche--respectively, one of the top-grossing actors of all time and the second most famous lesbian in Hollywood--don't bring enough adventure, comedy, or romance with them.
A retreaded plot doesn't provide them much to work with, however. Where have we heard this before? Two very different people (who don't really like each other, mind you) get stuck together, and much danger, hilarity, and love ensue. If you need the specifics, Heche's Robin is a fashion editor from New York and all that entails--irascible, sassy, driven, and, of course, able to look damn fine, even when lost for days in the wild. Robin's boyfriend and soon-to-be-fiance Frank (David Schwimmer) whisks her away from her workaholic urban life to a South Pacific dream vacation.
Quinn is the beach bum who flies them to their destination, and when Robin's boss suddenly needs her in Tahiti to oversee a daylong fashion shoot, it's Quinn who takes her. A storm forces them to crash-land on a deserted island. With the radio scorched by lightning, no one knows where they are or if they even survived, and our stars must figure out a way to make it back to civilization, without driving each other crazy or getting into danger. Oh, wait, it's an uninhabited island. What sort of danger can there possibly be when the island is void of people? Well, surely director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) can make up something like scary pigs or--aargh--maybe even some pirates to endanger our heroes.
Ford plays Han Solo. No, really--Quinn is older, but he's still a self-absorbed rapscallion with as boyish a smile as a 60-year-old could dream of having, and Quinn will carry just about any cargo to any tropical island in his junky aircraft for the right price. Instead of a big, hairy exotic ape named Chewbacca as co-pilot, he has a big-bosomed, exotic angel named Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors), but she gets left in a poor excuse for a side plot back at the resort with Schwimmer.
This is not to say that Ford isn't likable as Quinn; Ford is always likable. Audiences have wanted to see him play Solo or Indiana Jones again for years, or at least another action hero with a rogue's inkling--something, anything with more than a replicant's personality (The Fugitive's Richard Kimble) or a Boy Scout's staid honor (Air Force One's President James Marshall). But jutting out that interestingly scarred chin, twinkling those cherub's eyes, and saving the damsel in distress while cracking wise are not much of a challenge for Harrison Ford.
There's also not much of a romance between Quinn and Robin. The characters eventually say they are falling for each other, and they act the way people who fall in love in the movies act, but we don't feel it. Heche's character never seems to have any consistency or resonance. Robin becomes whatever cutout female character type that's needed for the scene. She's gobbling pills for comic relief during what should be a harrowing situation; then she's stomping around giving orders to prove she's tough and bossy--strong because that's what Reitman thinks women of the '90s want to be and see.
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Then again, this is an old-fashioned romance (think Doris Day and James Garner), so she has her fragile moments as well--it's OK just as long as Quinn is a little needy and willing to share his feelings too. Robin obviously needs a helper, but she can also be the hero all by herself when possible, see? In Reitman's hands, Robin becomes a wild card that can be played in any combination regardless of what hand the script deals. It works as a plot device, but without any style or flourish or passion.
A lack of fire is ultimately the problem of the entire film. Six Days tries hard to recall Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn riding the rapids in The African Queen, but the film falls short even of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. (There's even a scene where the ground gives way and our two heroes find themselves sliding down a muddy slope.)
At the end of the film, we get another piece of philosophy. Robin asks Quinn if there is really something between them or if what they feel is just something that happens to two people stranded on an island together. Neither, my dear; it's what happens to two people stuck in an adventure-comedy-romance.
Six Days, Seven Nights.
Directed by Ivan Reitman. Written by Michael Browning. Starring Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, David Schwimmer, and Jacqueline Obradors. Opens Friday.