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Review: 'Princess Kaiulani'

May 13, 2010

The true story of how Hawaii lost its sovereignty and became annexed to the United States may have been an interesting one, but it makes for starchy entertainment in the historical drama "Princess Kaiulani." Written and directed by Mark Forby and told through the eyes of its title character, a half-Hawaiian, half-Scottish princess (bloodlessly played by "The New World's" Q'orianka Kilcher) who, in the late 1800s, defended her homeland against American injustice, the film is too reverently drawn and self-consciously played to muster any real momentum.

The narrative picks up as ill-defined teen Princess Kaiulani (Is she shy? Headstrong? Snooty?) is sent to Victorian England after a rebel party linked to the American government overthrows the Hawaiian monarchy. Kaiulani moves in with her father's wealthy trader friend and his family, is humbled and enlightened, and falls for the trader's self-possessed son (Shaun Evans). But love doesn't conquer all and, a few years later, a matured Kaiulani returns to America to rally then- President Grover Cleveland on behalf of native Hawaiians, before travelling back to Honolulu for good.

Barry Pepper and Will Patton, fine actors both, are also on hand as American agents of change with differing plans for colonizing Hawaii but they can do little to ignite this sluggish tribute.

— Gary Goldstein

"Princess Kaiulani." MPAA rating: PG for some violence and thematic material, and for brief language, sensuality and smoking. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. In selected theaters.

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