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Movie Review

Princess Kaiulani

MPAA Rating: PG for some violence and thematic material, and for brief language, sensuality and smoking.

Reviewed by: Eric Bell

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
History Biography Romance Drama
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
May 14, 2010 (limited)
DVD: September 14, 2010
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Roadside Attractions

ROYALTY of the Bible: Kings / Queens / Princes

TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

What part should morality play in politics? Answer

Does character matter in political leaders? Answer

Fall of man to sin

Paradise in the Bible



Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer
Featuring: Q'orianka Kilcher (Princess Ka'iulani), Barry Pepper (Thurston), Will Patton (Sanford B. Dole), Shaun Evans (Clive Davies), Jimmy Yuill (Archie), Julian Glover (Mr. Davies), Tamzin Merchant (Alice Davies), Catherine Steadman (Miss Barnes), Kainoa Kilcher (Kaleo), Gary Aiko (Musician), Arthur Akana (Musician), Leo Anderson Akana (Queen Liliu'okalani), Peter Banks (President Cleveland), more »
Director: Marc Forby
Producer: Matador Pictures, Island Film Group, Trailblazer Films, more »
Distributor: Roadside Attractions

“Her heart was torn between love and the future of Hawaii.”

The story of Princess Kaiulani is interesting and obscure and possibly received more warmly by a history buff. For the rest of us, it is a mundane revelation of the short lived life of Victoria Kaiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiui Lunalilo, niece to Hawaiian King Kalakaua in the 1888 era.

The Hawaiian aristocracy gets blind sided by American colonization, and the stubborn Princess is caught in the middle. At the onset of political upheaval, Victoria is sent to England, in order for the difficulties on the Islands to subside and for her to continue her training as future heir to the throne. As her father travels, she is left with a sponsor family and enrolled in a girls’ school. Here she is ridiculed and mocked for her ethnicity and odd ways. Adults take to her well, and she ends up softening the hearts of her adversaries, with her wise and mature behavior.

And, of course, there is romance. She begins to fall for a boy and continues the romance through a difficult and unfulfilling path. The choices she has to make for him reveal her commitment to her royal blood and the passion she maintains for her people, even abroad.

While there are moments of interest and some well laid storyline, they are far and few between. I found myself feeling as if I was watching a slightly jazzed up, incomplete history documentary. There was not a sense of a consistent thread that to carry me from one scene to the next, leaving it difficult to track and somewhat unfulfilling in each of its conclusions.

There are some notable actors. Barry Pepper plays his role well as the despised head of the insurrection, while Will Patton does his best to stand up for what is right, despite the pressure of politics and the American way of life.

It is a family-friendly film, for the most part. I would imagine that most kids and young adults would become quickly bored and never find any real interest along the way to bring them back. There is little offensive content to keep you away from this PG-rated film. There are military personnel with guns guarding against a small onslaught of rebellious colonizers. Another scene shows cannons firing and several people being shot. There are few if any offensive words. Most odd are the belabored scenes of the Princess smooching with her beau. It seems forced and out of place, and so became somewhat distracting and bothersome—not anything very scandalous, just not natural.

There are a couple of notable moral lessons. The Princess forgives one of her school house bullies and treats her well in the end. She, also, stands up for what she believes in and goes out on a limb by taking a chance at visiting with President Grover Cleveland. She ends up casting aside her own love, for the good of her people and for the felt responsibility of her role as Princess. These are good examples of how I would want my kids to behave and obviously characteristics of our Lord Jesus.

I do applaud the writer and director for their attempt to bring to light the atrocity of the colonization of Hawaii and the trampling of their constitution. While not the best portrayal, it is a tribute of respect, nonetheless.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I found this movie interesting. It was well made and well acted.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kate Barrett, age 18 (USA)
Neutral—Having seen Q'orianka Kilcher’s passionate acting in “The New World” and Shaun Evans in the excellent BBC series “Endeavour,” I approached this movie with high hopes. While both of these actors turned in good performances, and the settings were gorgeous, the overall quality of the film was lacking. It felt like a hastily slapped together TV movie or a dramatized documentary with no oomph. Many scenes felt too short—there was barely time to understand what was happening, let alone the historical significance of them. This gave the film a very choppy feel and undermined most of the emotional impact that it could have had.

In addition, the romance between Kaiulani and Clive felt forced; as I stated previously, both are good actors, but the chemistry just wasn’t there.

In the end, I appreciate Kaiulani’s noble character, especially her forgiveness of others wrong-doing and her devotion to her country, but I wish this film had been well-crafted.

While it is a indeed respectful re-telling of the forced Hawaiian annexation, which definitely interested me in the subject, the movie itself just isn’t very good.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Christina, age 21 (USA)