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Film / The Legend of Johnny Lingo

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The Legend of Johnny Lingo is a 2003 feature film based on the 1969 short film Johnny Lingo. The movie expands on the short film by telling the backstory of Johnny Lingo, who as a baby is washed up on the shore of the Polynesian island Malio and is named Tamaliki "Tama" O Tangaloa by the island's chief. After getting into trouble, Tama is adopted by a drunk man named Pioi and his ugly daughter Mahana. Tama escapes from the island, promising that he will come back to take care of Mahana. Tama washes up on a different island and becomes an apprentice to the great trader Johnny Lingo.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Pioi is emotionally abusive towards his daughter not only because she (seemingly) didn't inherit her mother's beauty but also because her mother died bringing her into the world. Later, even he sadly admits he wasn't the best of fathers when he's giving his daughter away to Johnny Lingo (Tama).
  • Adaptational Explanation: In the short film, it isn't clear why an islander would have the European name Johnny Lingo. This film explains that the name "Johnny Lingo" is actually inherited from one of his guardians, who got the name from another Johnny Lingo.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The movie gives more of Johnny Lingo's backstory.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Mahana's father is named Moki in the 1969 short film, but in the feature film his name is Pioi.
  • Age Cut: While the young Tama is sailing, the camera follows his paddle and then back to an older Tama.
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  • Alcoholic Parent: Mahana's father Pioi drinks lots of kava.
  • The Apprentice: Tama becomes Johnny Lingo's apprentice as a trader.
  • Babies Ever After: Tama and Mahana have a child some time after their marriage.
  • Beautiful All Along: All her life, Mahana has been looked down upon by everyone, especially her father, for being homely and unkempt. After she marries Tama (Johnny Lingo), we see her joy shine through her now-cleaned beauty, from the inside out.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Tama (Johnny Lingo) and Mahana kiss at the end.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The song "Tamahana" has a line in Tokelauan, "E he galo koe i toku loto" (You will never leave my heart).
  • Born Unlucky: Johnny Lingo gets in trouble all throughout the movie.
  • Casting Couch: Invoked and subverted. A woman attempts make her daughter the first prospective wife to meet Johnny Lingo by seducing the chief steward. However, the chief steward rejects her advances and runs away.
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  • Childhood Friend Romance: Mahana's dad adopts Tama and he becomes friends with Mahana. Later Tama marries Mahana.
  • Da Chief: The chief finds and initially adopts Tama, but gives him away because they blame him for a fire.
  • Deadpan Snarker: "Husband, already the child is raining his blessings on you."
  • Death by Childbirth: Pioi explains that Leilani died while giving birth to Mahana on the same night they found Tama.
  • Dedication: "Dedicated to all the Johnny Lingos in our lives."
  • Distinguishing Mark: Tama has a birthmark on his butt cheek which his grandmother uses to identify him.
  • Doorstop Baby: Tama is found washed in a canoe after a storm.
  • Double Entendre: When an islander woman hits on the chief steward.
    Seductress: You know my daughter is the most sought after young woman on the island, so I thought if you could introduce her to Johnny first, I could certainly make it worth your while.
  • Failure Montage: After seeing Tama ride a sailing canoe with relative ease, Johnny Lingo tries to do the same, but much less ease and more falling in the water.
  • Faking Amnesia: Tama pretends that he lost his memory while sailing to avoid telling Johnny Lingo where he came from. However, Lingo can tell he came from Malio Island.
  • Gold Digger: Some of the women of Malio Island only want to marry Johnny Lingo for his money.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: To get Mahana to speak to him, the older Tama (Johnny Lingo) jokingly threatens to steal her clothes while she's bathing.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Used to show Tama working for Johnny Lingo under the direction of the chief steward.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Johnny Lingo is an honest trader who buys slaves to free them and give them jobs.
  • I Will Wait for You: Mahana goes to the headlands every day for eight years to see if Tama will return.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: When the Chief's wife first learns Tama would potentially be chief instead of her son, she goes out of her way to start a rumor that perhaps the child came from a god of bad luck. (It doesn't help that he was found after a hurricane.) As such, poor Tama falls out of the Chief's favor and is stripped of his birth rite as quickly as he received it. Later, when the whole island learns Johnny Lingo is Tama, returned as a successful trader and the son of Turtle Island's royalty, it's implied that the Chief's wife fell out of favor with her husband.
  • Legacy Character: Johnny Lingo explains that he inherited his name from someone else, and gives his name to Tama.
  • The Legend of X
  • Long-Lost Relative: On Turtle Island, Tama encounters his grandmother and learns he's the rightful heir to the island's chief.
  • The Movie: Based on the 1969 short film Johnny Lingo.
  • No Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: Nobody from Malio Island recognizes the older Tama. Even Mahana doesn't recognize him until she notices the band she gave him.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Whilst Tama lived with one adopted family, their house caught fire while they were away. Tama thankfully saved their infant son, but that doesn't stop his adopted parents from blaming him for the fire or handing him over to another adopted family.
  • Portmanteau Couple Name: invoked The film's theme song "Tamahana" by Te Vaka.
  • The Promise: Tama promises to Mahana that he will come back to take care of her.
  • Prophecy Twist: Da Chief of Malio Island predicts that Tama will become a great chief esteemed by all the island peoples. The chief thought that the child would succeed him, but Tama becomes chief when he meets his original family.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: On Turtle Island, Tama learns he's the rightful heir to the island's chief.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mahana's father Pioi gives one to Tama, explaining that his wife Leilani died while giving birth to Mahana on the same night he arrived. He also says he's mad at Mahana for not inheriting her mother's good looks.
  • The Runaway: Tama sails away from Malio Island and is found by the trader Johnny Lingo.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Mahana and Johnny Lingo argue when they meet as adults. When Mahana realizes Johnny is actually her childhood friend, she slaps him for not coming back sooner and then kisses him.
  • Tinkle in the Eye: When the chief presents the the baby Tama to the village, Tama pees on him.
  • Title Drop: When Johnny Lingo explains to Tama how he got his name he goes to a grave marked "Johnny Lingo":
    Johnny Lingo: And here lies the beginning of the legend of Johnny Lingo.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer says that Tama is the rightful heir to the chiefdomship of Turtle Island.
  • Tree Cover: Mahana sometimes hides in the trees to spy on Johnny Lingo (Tama).
  • Took a Level in Idealism: Growing up, Tama is always pessimistic about his current situation, believing he came from the god of mischief. While he's working for Johnny Lingo, a woman convinces him to believe he came from a good god, and he starts excelling at his work.
  • Underwater Fart Gag: As kids, Mahana and Tama are playing in the river and the latter makes the former laugh by farting.