Rick Richards (Elvis Presley) is a singing pilot returning home to Hawaii after his reckless womanising costs him his job with an airline. Rick now plans on starting up a business with his good friend Danny Kohana (James Shigeta) flying helicopters with tourists across the islands. However, neither of them has enough cash or connections to get their fly boy business up and running. So Rick does what he does best, namely romance a succession of well-connected local lovelies who then throw some wealthy tourists their way. Of course with each girl on a different island, Rick does his utmost to ensure none of them find out about each other. Needless to say, mishaps, mayhem and musical madness ensues.
Paradise, Hawaiian Style was the final entry in Elvis Presley’s Hawaiian trilogy so to speak, although admittedly ‘trilogy’ is somewhat grandiose a term to describe what was really a pretty convoluted formula foregrounding the King’s hip-swivelling antics against an undeniably inviting backdrop of sun, sea, sand and sexy bikini girls gyrating on the surf. Following in the not too dissimilar footsteps of Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) and the seminal Blue Hawaii (1961), Paradise, Hawaiian Style ran through a checklist of Elvis movie motifs that had proven popular in the past: big Hawaiian-themed musical numbers, cute kids, duelling love interests and our all-singing hero as a go-getting entrepreneur with an independent streak determined to make it on his own.
If Sean Connery as James Bond was cinema’s ultimate globe-hopping tourist in the Sixties then one could make a fairly convincing case for Elvis as the archetypal American entrepreneur in his movies, combining business with pleasure, sex with success. After all Rick’s entire business plan evidently involves him romancing as many lovely ladies as humanly possible, maybe even superhumanly possible. It is an image of go-getting capitalist virility that could have sprung from the imagination of Don Draper himself or indeed any real life Madison Avenue advertising agency. What’s that you say? The plot? Ah, well, what little plot there is proves remarkably aimless. The film plods from one musical travelogue to another with Elvis romancing a different love interest in literally every scene.
Future Hammer horror starlet Suzanna Leigh stars as gutsy girl pilot Judy who sadly does not get to fly any helicopters but does look very hot in a bikini. Prolific Asian actress Irene Tsu and not-so-prolific Asian actress Linda Wong (in her final film) play fetching hula dancers in separate musical numbers, sultry Marianna Hill snags a steamy duet while nuzzling Elvis suggestively and the adorable Julie Parrish appears in a sequence that admittedly ranks among the more embarrassing in the King’s screen career where he serenades a pack of dogs aboard his helicopter. It brings back unfortunate memories of the time he sang “Hound Dog” to an actual dog on the Ed Sullivan Show. One of the mutts, looking suspiciously like Lassie, even bites Elvis. Twice! Adding insult to injury an old woman then bops Elvis on the head with her umbrella. The King is dead, long live the King. Despite an obvious enthusiasm around so many beautiful starlets, Elvis appears bemused throughout much of the movie and shares more potent chemistry with child actress Donna Butterworth. She plays Danny’s daughter Jan and not only brings plenty of pep to her duet with Elvis but performs her own solo number with appealing enthusiasm.
As a sop to Elvis’ frustrated action hero ambitions the film throws in one fight scene where he kicks a whole lot of ass along with a fairly exciting sequence where a helicopter spins out of control that seems the main reason director Michael Moore was hired. Not to be confused with the tubby documentarian and liberal provocateur of the same name, Moore began his career as a child actor in the 1920s. He went on to become one of the most in-demand second unit directors in Hollywood, notably on the Indiana Jones trilogy while most of his directing gigs tended to be action oriented including tough western An Eye for an Eye (1966), early Hollywood martial arts film Kill a Dragon (1967) starring Jack Palance and blaxploitation outing Mister Deathman (1977), although he also made The Fastest Guitar Alive (1967) a bizarre vehicle for Roy Orbison that would have suited Elvis better.
Screenwriter Alan Weiss was on familiar ground here having penned Blue Hawaii along with several other Elvis vehicles. He never drew many plaudits for his writing though his one venture outside camp Elvis, the John Wayne western The Sons of Katie Elder (1966) was well received. Co-screenwriter Anthony Lawrence worked previously with Weiss on Roustabout (1964) though he went on to pen Easy Come, Easy Go (1967) on his own. A decade later Lawrence wrote the screenplay for John Carpenter’s Elvis biopic starring Kurt Russell. What more can be said about Paradise, Hawaiian Style? Not much but for all its failings the film has an amiable air with its seductive scenery and good-naturedly goofy musical comedy antics that do lull you into submission.