"Gayer than laughter" is right.
Okay, I'm not bigoted or anything, but seriously, this movie's got some masculinity issues. Pretty much the opening scene is a bunch of shirtless guys singing about how great dames are. Really, guys? How many of you really know how awesome dames are? I can just imagine one of them singing "and they're stronger than bears!" because they're all just guessing and trying too hard.
This is the kind of musical I severely dislike. Call me a facist, but Rogers and Hammerstein annoy the living daylights out of me. The lyrics are annoying and most of the music is sung simply for the sake of singing. It's more "ooh, isn't that catchy" than, "my, this is advancing the character and the story." Now, I'm not saying that situation is an absolute in South Pacific, but it is defintiely there. The real reason that these kinds of songs annoy me (outside of their general uselessness) is that it takes a very short plot narrative that is already too preachy and turns it into a very boring two-and-a-half hour movie. There is no reason that this movie couldn't have been told in 70 minutes. Two subsconsciously racist American soldiers fall in love but are too racist to do anything about it, hurting the ones they love. Gee, if I can really sum up a plot that easily, there isn't much to it.
Now, I've put my hatred for the typical Broadway musical on the backburner in the past. Pretty much, my main hatred are the typically Broadway musicals. This is one of them. The reason is that the movies feel so stagey. Now, I don't like the stage productions of these movies either because I believe theatre should have more purpose, but I'll set that aside for now. The stagey feeling of the movie is usually compounded by lack of imagination in these films and South Pacific is no different. It tries to be different using an absolutely miserable gimmick, but it is no different. The gimmick I'm talking about is the use of the colored filter over the lens. Now, I think color is an extremely powerful way to convey emotion and change attitudes, but the way they use color in this film is just lazy and nauseating. Washing the screen out with that color just takes all the beauty out of the moment and makes everyone look sickly. Stage lights get away with it a little better because almost no stage light would be so harsh for so long. I've directed with extreme specials in the past and you know to use those choices sparingly. Unfortunately, this movie just failed when it came to that account.
The real shame is that the scale on this film is pretty grandiose, but it really fails to use any of that grandiose scale to help the movie. The wipes of color distract from the beauty of the film. Also, this is a WWII film. There's the scene of the plane coming in on the island and the miniature boat being attacked, but how about addressing the fact that these people are at war. There's the focus on how importance the Thanksgiving Bash is to the morale of these troops, who seem to be enjoying a tropical vacation the entire time. One of the main characters just comes down with malaria out of nowhere just to make the story slightly more girm. (When he got malaria, I don't know. But he addressed getting out of the hospital, so we have to believe it happened.) But I felt like I was watching Sgt. Bilko more than I was watching a WWII film.
As you can see, I was quite turned off by this movie. It is far too long and I, although I hate using this word, have to say it is really a boring as hell movie. If you like the music, more power to you. That's pretty much all you have going for this film.