Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein created a really cool musical with South Pacific, based on James Michener's Tales from the South Pacific. I won't get into the details here of the plot here, which is extremely thought-provoking, since I've already reviewed the play. I want to compare ABC's TV movie to the to a live production of the play.
Even though I watch movies extensively, I've had a soft spot for plays. In general, I admire the creativity it takes to pull off an absorbing production with a highly limited amount of special effects and set changes. Also, the charm of a play is that it's like a live concert: watching it is once in a lifetime event and generally each production is different from the next, sometimes subtly and sometimes dramatically (no pun intended).
With that in mind, like making a film from a book, a movie has to be executed impeccably to live up to the excitement generated by a well-written and well-made play. The South Pacific TV film isn't quite up to the mark. Although it is adequate, there is a lack of passion and energy that makes even the great songs feel flat.
Glenn Close, playing Ensign Nellie Forbush and Rade Serbedzija as Emile de Becque deliver solid performances, but it is not enough to spice up the film. Harry Connick Jr., whose acting has its moments (Copycat, The Iron Giant), is wooden here. Natalie Jackson Mendoza is beautiful as Liat. However, the Bloody Mary character gives an actress a great opportunity to steal the show and Lori Tan Chinn doesn't disappoint in this regard.
Keep in mind that I'm not criticising the play itself, since I do think the play, the themes it touches upon, and the music, are really good. I just recommend checking out a live performance.