This lazily-stitched quilt of romantic fluff and WWII propaganda offers a refreshing glimpse of Laurence Olivier as a matinee idol. Ingenious at first, and heavy-handed later on, ADVENTURE FOR TWO structures a cautionary fable about isolationism around a romantic comedy scenario.
As spokesperson for the Russian Trade Council prior to WWII, inventor Ivan Kouzetsoff (Laurence Olivier) journeys to England to introduce the British shipbuilding industry to his revolutionary propeller blade. Full of smug preconceptions about capitalism, diehard communist Ivan falls for a willful
socialite, Anne (Penelope Ward), while trying to pitch his ice-breaking propeller to Anne's grandfather, Mr. Runalow (Felix Aylmer), a respected shipping magnate. Despite Anne and Ivan's mutual attraction, a lover's spat mars their relationship, when Ivan publicly insults English traditionalism
prior to his departure for his homeland.
A year later, when Ivan debarks in war-torn England to smooth out imperfections in his design, his eyes are opened up to the virtues of his second country. As England copes with the blitz, Ivan reevaluates the condescending attitude he held toward the English before they entered the WWII fray.
Unfortunately, Ivan's propeller modifications prove structurally unsound, and he seems destined to return to the Soviet Union in disgrace. By the time he stumbles upon the technical solution to his design snafu, the Brit shipbuilders have already decided to go into production with proven
specifications. Anne, however, stirs up the patriotism of the village's workers, who agree to work around the clock in order to realize Ivan's revolutionary propeller. After his modified ship design is successfully launched, Ivan rejoins the war effort in Mother Russia. Although ennobled by the
faith of his British soul mates and enriched by Anne's love, Ivan does not end up married to Anne.
As a recruiting film for Anglo-Soviet comradeship, ADVENTURE FOR TWO rather oversells its case. Though dated as propaganda against the Axis powers, this shimmeringly photographed rabble-rouser has a longer shelf-life as a comedy of manners. In ambling but entertaining fashion, the director and
screenwriter satirize the foibles of the stuck-in-the-mud Englishmen and deflate the pomposity of the State-fixated Russian.
As a parallel to its ongoing debate about national characteristics, this movie incorporates a sprightly boy-meets-girl contretemps. Despite their ardor, Ivan and Anne aren't willing to compromise enough to effect a lasting union. If the incredibly handsome Olivier overworks his charm a bit and
bungles his accent on occasion, he still connects enchantingly with leading lady Ward, who gives a smashing comedy performance. Her skill with ripostes bears favorable comparison with American stars of the period like Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, and Carole Lombard. Even those with a low
tolerance for stiff-upper-lip patriotism will be captivated by the polished teamwork of Olivier and Ward and by the spell they cast with the help of superlative character actors like Aylmer as the boat impresario and Margaret Rutherford as a town busybody. A tapestry of wartime alliance attitudes,
ADVENTURE FOR TWO holds together due to the integrity of its bittersweet love story that supports but overshadows the film's larger purpose as politicized morale booster. (Adult situations.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This lazily-stitched quilt of romantic fluff and WWII propaganda offers a refreshing glimpse of Laurence Olivier as a matinee idol. Ingenious at first, and heavy-handed later on, ADVENTURE FOR TWO structures a cautionary fable about isolationism around a r… (more)