THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO appears to be at first glance the simple story of a boy in the South Pacific, who receives his rightful inheritance and follows his heart to find true love.
The movie opens with a baby washing ashore on a boat in the South Pacific. The chief proclaims that the child is a gift from one of the gods. Some think it’s the god of mischief. The chief thinks the child is a gift of the blessing god. Thus, the chief chooses the child, Tama, over his own son.
After three years of bad luck, the chief recants and assumes that Tama is cursed, denounces him, and gives him to another islander. Tama gets handed from one family to another, all of whom believe that their ill fortune comes from his curse. Finally, he gets given to a drunk, who, as the drunk says, has an ugly daughter, Mahana.
Tama falls into love with Mahana, builds a boat and asks her to leave the island with him. She refuses to go with him because she has to take care of her father, in spite of the fact that he’s a drunk, and so Tama heads off, promising to return.
Tama almost dies at sea, but washes up in front of the home of the wealthiest trader in the South Pacific, named Johnny Lingo. Johnny recognizes that Tama is a runaway who lies about his past, but determines to help Tama overcome his personal demons and problems. Eventually, Johnny Lingo comes to the point where he’s going to die, and he makes Tama his heir, giving him his name. He tells Tama to follow his heart back to his first love, which Tama does, but she does not recognize him, and so the stage is set for the climax.
THE LEGEND OF TOMMY LINGO has a lot of virtues. Patience, kindness, hard work, perseverance, are all extolled. Furthermore, taking care of the homeless, the lost, and the rebellious are exemplified. Being true to your promises, loving someone for what’s inside them, and sacrificing your life for others are also extolled. There are also allegorical elements that could be interpreted within a Christian worldview. The baby coming almost miraculously from the god of blessing, the child growing up as a humble servant, although he is, by birth, a chief, and Tama’s dying to self, could all be woven into a Bible teaching.
The defect, however, is that there is no real appreciation and recognition, or clarification, regarding the true salvation available in Jesus Christ, or the gift that God has given us to set us free from our sins and there is an undue emphasis on marriage and following your heart. Part of this problem lies in the fact that there is no acknowledgment that men are basic sinners. There seems to be a Romantic presupposition that men are good and just need work, or help along the way.
The cinematography is beautiful, the direction is slow at times but winsome, and the acting is serviceable with only a few spotty moments of very strained performances. It would have been better if Mahana had been a downtrodden Cinderella who blossomed into a lovely woman when Tama paid eight cows for her as the short story suggests. As it is in the movie, she remains plain.
Overall, THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO has good heart and good intentions. It is worth watching and memorable, though it could have been better.
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Gerald R. Molen
Whitelight Entertainment, Inc
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SUMMARY: THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO is the story of a boy in the South Pacific, who receives his rightful inheritance and follows his heart to find true love. Overall, THE LEGEND OF JOHNNY LINGO has good heart and good intentions.
(B, RoRo, C, V, AA, M) Moral worldview with strong romantic elements and view of marriage, as well as some redemptive allegorical elements; no foul language; minor violence, such as a woman, both as a girl and then grown up, throws coconuts and other things at guys; kissing; no nudity; one town drunk character, no smoking; and, lying, eventually overcome.
GENRE: Historical Drama