Princess Ka'iulani has no qualms about being a fairly fawning biopic about Ka'iulani, the young Hawaiian princess who lived at the turn of the century, when her nation was being annexed by the United States. It should've been concerned, though, about wading in a sea of clichés, making the majority of the movie stale and, frankly, stone boring.
While the princess (Q'orianka Kilcher) is in Hawaii, life is ideal, until an attempted insurrection convinces her Scottish father to take her to England. There, she experiences the combination of a bad children's story and a corny romance, as her foreign-ness and island nation royal status subjects her to various belittlements, while she finds friendship with her guardian's daughter and son. The romance that emerges only serves to show how much more fiercely she loves her country, as she eventually tries to do what she can to use her royal stature to protect her people against an evil business-driven American (Barry Pepper), who surprisingly resists the temptation to twirl his moustache.
Actually, none of this is even as potentially entertaining (in a good or bad way) as it sounds. After watching Princess Ka'iulani, we can barely say we learned much about this historical figure, nor even much of the history of the time, which feel as if they get blurred over in favor of trite, undercooked character drama. It's a shame to see that this was Kilcher's next role after her starring gig in The New World (2005) -- this stiff part as Ka'iulani couldn't be more different than her previous role as Pocahontas. She looks as nice in her period costumes as the lush scenery and photography do, but they're all just dressing for what amounts to be a sleepy biography.
(Released by Roadside Attractions and rated "PG" for some violence and thematic material, brief language, sensuality and smoking.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.