Friday June 12, 1998
"Six Days, Seven Nights" must have sounded irresistible on paper. In fact, on paper it still does.
"Here's Harrison Ford the way you like to see him, the rugged man's man with the crooked grin and gruff charm. Who's he paired with but the lovely Anne Heche, the ingenue of the moment, fresh from winning plaudits in 'Wag the Dog.' And look who's directing! It's laughmeister Ivan Reitman, the king of can't-miss comedies like 'Kindergarten Cop,' 'Beethoven' and 'Twins.' What could go wrong?"
In fact, looked at that way, not much has. "Six Days, Seven Nights" is an acceptable star vehicle, no better or worse than it should be, a well-worn standard diversion that gets the job done without eliciting either howls of fury or paroxysms of delight.
What "Six Days" lacks is what no one thought was necessary, the spark of originality. It's part sex comedy, part screwball romance, part adventure yarn, part anything that writer Michael Browning felt might conceivably hook an audience.
In both conception and execution, "Six Days" is too predictable and by the book to wow anyone. It chooses instead the safer path of echoing everything from "African Queen" to "Romancing the Stone" to (with its outdoor guy tames snippy, already-spoken-for New York magazine gal plot) "The Horse Whisperer."
It's in Manhattan on a particularly snowy day that things begin. Robin Monroe (Heche) is an assistant editor for Dazzle Magazine, a Cosmopolitan clone run by grand dame Marjorie Howell (Allison Janney in a brisk, amusing cameo). Robin's boyfriend Frank Martin (David Schwimmer) is a workaholic attorney, but that's about to change.
Stung by Robin's complaints that they never do anything or go anywhere, Frank has signed the couple up for six days and seven nights on the secluded South Pacific island paradise of Makatea (Kauai in real life). "I want this to be," Frank says in one of those movie lines that you know he's going to wish he hadn't even thought, "the most unforgettable vacation of our lives."
For the unforgettable part of this particular vacation turns out to be pilot Quinn Harris (Ford), owner-operator of one-plane Harris Freight and introduced (in a scene he shares with director of photography Michael Chapman) with grease on his face and a hearty curse on his lips. Though he modestly denies it, Quinn is, as Robin insists, "one of those guy guys. You send them into the wilderness with a pocket knife and a Q-tip and they build you a shopping mall."
Naturally, Robin and Quinn take a dislike to each other at once; how else can we be sure they're meant to connect? Fate throws them together when Marjorie Howell calls from New York and begs Robin to sacrifice a day of her vacation to fly to nearby Tahiti and baby-sit a photo shoot with, no kidding, Vendela and Evander Holyfield.
Quinn's sturdy DeHavilland Beaver turns out to be the only available plane, but halfway into the trip terrible weather comes up awfully fast. Quicker than you can say, "I told you so," the Beaver is disabled by lightning and deposits its two passengers on an uninhabited island without any way off or the means to let the outside world know they're alive.
Not surprisingly, the crash exacerbates the dislike these two feel for each other. But though they loudly insist they're not each other's type, the film sanctions their romantic link by pushing together people they left behind: her boyfriend, Frank, and his girlfriend, Angelica (Jacqueline Obradors, who enlarges a standard party girl part with a gift for comic delivery).
Robin and Quinn work their way through a laundry list of disasters, including snakes in her pants and a band of marauding pirates, that are strictly standard-issue. The appealing professionalism and chemistry of both stars make what's happening on screen more satisfying than it has a right to be.
Ford is intimately familiar with guy guy parts, and he handles this one like the smooth veteran he is. Though Heche has been an impressive actress as far back as independent vehicles like "Walking and Talking" and "Pie in the Sky," she's never before had the chance to exhibit a wisecracking Barbara Stanwyck side, and she handles the opportunity with skill and fine style.
In addition to the work itself, both Ford and Heche probably had ulterior motives for taking on "Six Days, Seven Nights." A serious pilot, Ford no doubt relished the chance to actually fly a plane on film. And Heche (whose relationship with Ellen DeGeneres has been widely publicized) wanted, like all young actresses, the opportunity to establish herself as an A-list romantic lead, something she does flawlessly. Incentives for the audience, however, are not always as gratifying or well-defined.
Six Days, Seven Nights, 1998. PG-13 for language, sensuality and brief violence. In association with Caravan Pictures, a Roger Birnbaum/Northern Lights Entertainment production, released by Touchstone Pictures. Director Ivan Reitman. Producers Ivan Reitman, Wallis Nicita, Roger Birnbaum. Executive producers Joe Medjuck, Daniel Goldberg, Julie Bergman Sender. Screenplay by Michael Browning. Cinematographer Michael Chapman. Editor Sheldon Kahn. Costumes Gloria Gresham. Music Randy Edelman. Production design J. Michael Riva. Supervising art director David F. Klassen. Set decorator Lauri Gaffin. Running time 1 hour, 41 minutes. Harrison Ford as Quinn Harris. Anne Heche as Robin Monroe. David Schwimmer as Frank Martin. Jacqueline Obradors as Angelica. Temuera Morrison as Jager. Allison Janney as Marjorie.