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The Legend of Johnny Lingo

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
The Legend of Johnny Lingo

from Film Forum, 08/28/03

Families should discoverThe Legend of Johnny Lingo
A little G-rated movie called The Legend of Johnny Lingo is getting reviews that suggest it should not be overlooked. Perhaps a few families will be fortunate enough to discover it even in the midst of the summer blockbuster season.

Lingo follows the adventures of a boy named Tama who as an infant is discovered by a tribe of South Pacific islanders and adopted as the child and heir of the tribe's chief. But when the chief's wife expresses her dislike for the boy, he ends up being rejected and goes off to live with the local drunk and his daughter.

Eventually, he sets out on yet another journey, promising to return. His travels lead him to a different shore, where he befriends the wealthiest trader in the region, a man called Johnny Lingo. Johnny offers Tama wisdom and guidance on everything from sailing to living a life of integrity.

"The story is actually a sweet and loving one," says Michael Elliott (Movie Parables). "The film unfortunately does suffer from its use of nonprofessional Polynesian actors. There is an amateurish air to the production that must be forgiven in order to enjoy the tale being told. However, there is no denying that the message behind the story is a powerful and poignant one. The Legend of Johnny Lingo can lead us to question how it is we are to determine or view our self-worth as well as show us how our treatment of others will affect how they see themselves."

Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily) says, "The Legend of Johnny Lingo is similar to the story of the biblical Joseph, who toils for years in servanthood, but whose wisdom and dedication bring him great honor—as he works to do what is right. The film also works as a case of lost-and-found identity, which children are sure to love. [The movie] is as warm and stirring as the island-scapes it beautifully captures. The film industry needs more of this storytelling wind in its sails."

Ted Baehr (Movieguide) agrees that the movie "has a lot of virtues. Patience, kindness, hard work, perseverance, are all extolled. Furthermore, taking care of the homeless, the lost, and the rebellious are exemplified. Being true to your promises, loving someone for what's inside them, and sacrificing your life for others are also extolled. … The defect … is that there is no real appreciation and recognition, or clarification, regarding the true salvation available in Jesus Christ."

from Film Forum, 09/04/03

After viewing The Legend of Johnny Lingo, Holly McClure (Crosswalk) says, "Look for this film to open in your area and take all ages to see this precious and touching family-friendly story. It affirms faith in God who has a hand on our lives, hope in situations that seem hopeless, and shows forgiveness and mercy given for people who seem like they don't deserve it. This is a wonderful family film full of tender moments, exciting adventure and good old-fashioned values!"

Caroline Mooney (Christian Spotlight) says Lingo is "predictable, but wonderfully so. The film's message is clear: Good character bears witness to true beauty."

I watched the film with a group of my nephews and nieces. The kids enjoyed it, happy to see the young neglected heroes rise above those who mistreated them. But the acting had the mediocre quality of community theatre, which distracted me despite the film's exotic island settings.