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Old-fashioned adventure in 'Kon-Tiki'

Dramatization of Thor Heyerdahl's historic 1947 raft voyage gets big-screen treatment.

Jakob Oftebro as Torstein and Tobias Santelmann as Knut in KON TIKI. (Carl Christian Raabe / © 2013 The Weinstein Company)
Jakob Oftebro as Torstein and Tobias Santelmann as Knut in KON TIKI. (Carl Christian Raabe / © 2013 The Weinstein Company)Read more

THE RULE in journalism is that two of anything is sheer coincidence, but three of anything is an ironclad trend.

Here's one for you: We now have three movies in theaters about momentous historic events that occurred in 1947 - "42" and Jackie Robinson's integration of baseball, "Midnight's Children" and the 1947 partition of Pakistan and India, and now "Kon-Tiki," a dramatization of Thor Heyerdahl's historic 1947 Pacific rafting trip, which proved that ancient peoples crossed the oceans centuries before historians deemed it possible.

In Heyerdahl's words, to pre-Columbian South Americans, oceans were not obstacles, but highways.

Heyerdahl (Pal Sverre Hagen) is a blue-eyed, blond, obsessive - a sort of elongated Lawrence of Arabia of the sea, and the movie, at it's most interesting, colors his mission with a tinge of fanatacism.

Officialdom mocks his ideas and his scheme - to build a large raft from native Peruvian materials and set out (with a small Scandinavian crew) for Polynesia, trusting to wind and current and luck. The only way, he says, to prove his point.

Turns out he was wrong about that, but only in hindsight. Botanists studying the plant DNA of the sweet potato have confirmed what Heyerdahl believed - that cultivated vegetables moved from the Americas to Asia centuries before Europeans arrived in America.

But who wants to make a movie about vegetables? "Veggie Tales Transpacific Migration" - there's a straight-to-DVD title for you.

"Kon-Tiki" is a full-on movie, a very handsome production, lavishly photographed. There's even a beefcake element - about an hour's worth of partially clothed Nordic men in Ralph Lauren poses.

Adrift, the movie has some of the at-sea image magic of "Life of Pi" - whales, flourescent creatures, flying fish. The crew looks on in wonder, as "Kon-Tiki" brings to us the old-fashioned pleasure of undiscovered things.