28 January 2016 | MartinHafer
Enjoyable but highly uneven.
"Return to Paradise" is a very strange Gary Cooper movie. His character is an odd one indeed--very admirable and brave on one hand and a total jerk on the other. The overall film, as a result is entertaining but far from satisfying.
The film begins with Mr. Morgan (Cooper) arriving on a small Polynesian island. The place is sort of a theocracy run by a VERY puritanical man, the Reverend Corbett (Barry Jones). However, Corbett and his personal band of thugs are quick to enforce their laws...but seem to take delight in not informing Morgan of the laws first! After he is attacked by these bullies, Morgan stands up for himself...and earns the respect of the locals who are getting sick of Corbett's mistreatment. Ultimately, and reluctantly, Corbett's thugs are chased off and the islanders are happy...and Corbett changes and becomes less nasty and puritanical over time. What also happens is that Morgan's new woman, Maeva, becomes pregnant and eventually dies in childbirth. At this point, Morgan shows that although he seemed like a pretty cool guy through much of the film, now he is a jerk, as he leaves his new daughter with her grandmother and he leaves the island.
Nearly two decades pass and WWII has broken out. Morgan finally returns to the island and finds he's sort of a folk hero...and Corbett is still there but has mellowed considerably. He also finds his daughter and their relationship is clearly problematic. It becomes more problematic later after some American airmen are stranded on the island...and Morgan begins acting like an overbearing and protective father...which makes no sense considering he'd abandoned this daughter for all these years.
The bottom line is that Morgan's character isn't at all consistent and the film felt frustrating as a result. Not a terrible film but one that sometimes just didn't make a lot of sense. Plus who wants to see a film where the leading man is actually a big hypocritical weasel?!