Princess Kaiulani

Rated 3.0

Q’orianka Kilcher, who played Pocahontas in Terence Malick’s epic New World, has the title role here, and the vibrant dignity of her performance is the chief virtue of an otherwise mediocre historical drama. Writer-director Marc Forby has an intriguing subject here—the story of the USA’s annexation of Hawaii told from the vantage point of the island monarchy that was in full bloom before the incursions of Anglo-American industrial interests—and that, too, makes the film worth seeing, but just barely. Forby’s simplistic screenplay comes across like a history lesson geared to a juvenile audience. The ensuing dramas are surprisingly thin and the flimsily sketched narrative proves sluggish even with a quick 90-minute running time. Barry Pepper and Will Patton play the main Yankee movers-and-shakers, the one hostile to Kaiulani and the other sympathetic, but neither can add much to the cardboard characters Forby has given them. Kaiulani’s self-possessed dedication to her nation and its people permits her to stand up to these intimidating men and to her Scottish father (Jimmy Yulli) and her English suitor (Shaun Evans) as well. But it would have been nice to have had a fuller and more exact sense of where that strength came from and how it actually worked. Pageant Theatre. Rated PG