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kon tiki
Looks like somebody wants shark fin soup for dinner.

I hate coming to that realization that I should be reading more. It’s usually when a book is turned into a movie and everyone is talking about how great the novel was. Sometimes you have a decent excuse – the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series were geared towards teens. I have no idea what I’ll say with the classic The Great Gatsby.

At the end of this movie, when the closing credits gave us additional information on explorer and author Thor Heyerdahl – I was surprised to see how many copies of the book sold and how many languages it was translated into. Now, the fact that a book was written about that adventure doesn’t give all that much away.

It’s a shame that over the years the phrase “Based on a true story” has been cheapened, because this is one instance were it really adds something knowing that; especially with Life of Pi so fresh in our memories, and a few scenes being so similar (the impressive whale shark, the mesmerizing bioluminescent stingrays, etc.)

In 1947, Heyerdahl wanted to prove that 1,500 years ago, inhabitants of South America traveled in boats across the Pacific Ocean and inhabited the islands of Polynesia. That’s 4,300 miles, on boats that would’ve been made out of balsa wood. This all came about after a few publishers turned down a book he was working on for almost 10 years with his wife. One publisher didn’t buy that this theory was possible. Little did Heyerdahl realize he might get a better book out of such a journey, or that the filming one shipmate would do would land them an Academy Award in 1951 for Best Documentary. This movie was also nominated for Best Foreign Film last year. No need to worry about subtitles. Just like the submarine movie last year that dealt with Russians, these Norwegians are all speaking English. Unlike that movie (Phantom), this is actually good. It’s like those Disney adventures I remember watching as a kid. Not only was the time period in the city recreated well by filmmakers Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, but the cinematography was splendid. Kudos to Geir Hartly Andreassen for some nice nature shots.

I also like that they didn’t try to fictionalize some of the characters to give it more drama. I hate when true stories do that. There’s enough drama with the refrigerator salesmen that makes a few bad decisions and goes into panic mode a bit quicker than the rest of the mariners, and the fact that Heyerdahl has a wife and two young sons at home around the holidays.

You can always count on sharks to add a little drama as well (side note: Am I the only person that liked Open Sea?). One powerful scene with a shark was immediately followed by a goofy scene that didn’t really work (see photo above).

There were a few nice touches of humor (two jokes involved shark repellent). There was also a lot of heart, and it made watching these underdogs more fun.

Pi had a tiger, Tom Hanks had a volleyball, and Heyerdahl had a crab. I’m guessing that little crustacean is the only thing that wouldn’t mind the boat crashing during a storm, or hitting some rocky and razor sharp reefs. Watch the movie to see which animals survived.

I’m guessing no crabs, sharks, parrots, or beards were hurt during the filming. What’s going to hurt is seeing Iron Man 3 make $30 million this weekend, while Kon-Tiki only makes $30,000…when it’s a better movie.

It was two hours long, and I was a bit underwhelmed when it was all said and done. I liked it enough to give it 3 stars out of 5.

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