Blue Lagoon: The Awakening debuts tonight on Lifetime at 8 p.m. Eastern.
When contemplating 1980’s The Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins, and its 1991 sequel, Return to the Blue Lagoon, which teamed Milla Jovovich with Brian Krause, the word “cerebral” isn’t one that tends to turn up very often, nor should it. Both films are little more than romantic melodrama involving teenagers—or actors playing teenagers, anyway—stranded on a deserted island and discovering their sexuality, and while the results have undoubtedly proven titillating to many of us (let’s not be coy here), the material isn’t exactly what you’d call intellectually challenging. Take the original film and hold it up against Lifetime’s new “contemporary remake,” however, and suddenly it seems like Shields and Atkins had Shakespeare as their screenwriter.
The mere fact that Blue Lagoon: The Awakening is airing on Lifetime is likely enough to sound warning bells in anyone who only came to the first films in hopes of catching sight of a bit of boob here and there, but for those who find solace in romance, no matter how much cheese is slathered on top of it, you may feel there’s something salvageable for you, but this will depend heavily on how much stupidity you can tolerate.
By going “contemporary,” The Awakening eschews the Victorian-era setting of the earlier films along with the aspect of having the young boy and girl land on the island as pre-teens and slowly come of age together over the course of many years. Now, they’re a couple of high school students with polar-opposite personalities—Emma (Indiana Evans) is a rigorously scheduled girl with OCD tendencies, while Dean (Brenton Thwaits) is a grungy young rebel who does whatever he pleases whenever it suits him—who go to Trinidad with their class on some charitable home-building endeavor and end up stranded on an island for, like, a month or so. Shades of Swept Away? Yeah, a bit, but only if we’re talking about the Madonna version.
The opening minutes of the proceedings offer the thinnest possible development of all characters. We meet Emma’s mother (Denise Richards) and father (Frank John Hughes), who are textbook supportive parents, along with her sister, Stacey (Carrie Wampler), who never misses a chance to moan about how everyone likes Emma better than her. This appears to be true, though, since Emma’s got a trio of best friends and has the quarterback expressing at least some semblance of romantic interest in her. Meanwhile, Dean’s dad (Patrick St. Esprit) has enough money to bail his son out of whatever problems he gets himself into, but his mother’s dead and he’s never gotten over it, which is obviously supposed to explain why he’s such a jerk.
When the kids go on the trip with their teacher/chaperone Mr. Christiansen, played to nostalgic effect by the aforementioned Christopher Atkins, Emma is dragged along by her friends to a party on a boat. While they’re at sea, the cops arrive to put an end to the proceedings, their attempt to dock alongside the party vessel accidentally knocks Emma into the water. Thankfully, Dean jumps in to save her, dragging them both over to a conveniently-located dinghy, but rather than trying to get them back aboard, he decides that he can’t get busted by the fuzz and instead decides to cut the dinghy free. In short order, a storm blows through, the party boat and the cops depart the premises, and Emma and Dean are stuck in the middle of nowhere. This serves as the cue for the two to begin bickering back and forth, much as their eventual arrival on a nearby island prompts them to set aside their differences, work together to survive while waiting for rescue, and, of course, to make sweet, sweet love.
Meanwhile, as the parents learn of their kids’ disappearance, Richards is given the opportunity to use the hell out of her angry face and her sad face while demanding that someone do something to find her daughter, dammit, and assure anyone who’ll listen that she’s still alive, dammit. Eventually, though, she heads home (Hughes and St. Esprit give up before she does), and everyone talks a lot about how they can’t believe Emma and Dean are dead. And, of course, they’re not, although they do have to endure attacks by bats, a panther, and a thieving monkey before they eventually use their flare gun to attack the attention of a low-flying helicopter. By this point, viewers will have had to tolerate way more heart-to-heart conversations and teen angst than anyone should have to endure, which makes it all the more painful when they realize that there’s still another 15 minutes or so left of the film. Yep, this new Blue Lagoon gives us a conclusion where the kids come home, fall back into their routines as popular girl and outsider boy, and, come the climactic scene at the prom, suddenly realize that they can’t live without each other, even if they do come from two different worlds.
When a film manages to fail to live up to the low bar set for Blue Lagoon movies and Lifetime movies, you know you’ve got something really, really awful on your hands.