After the death of Warner Oland, 20th Century Fox hired Sidney Toler to pick up the reigns as Charlie Chan, master detective. It’s not quite in the same league as some of Oland’s flicks, but it’s a decent entry if you’re an indiscriminate fan of the series. This one opens with Chan at home in Hawaii, awaiting the birth of his first grandchild, when he learns that a murder has happened on a steam ship. He boards the vessel and has to sift through a lot of various red herrings (including George Zucco, who keeps a brain in a jar) before finding the culprit.
Charlie Chan in Honolulu was the 17th entry in the durable series, but curiously, it was only the first movie to feature Chan on his home turf of Hawaii. Unfortunately, Chan doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time during the middle section of the flick as his Number Two Son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung) does a lot of the snooping. Once Charlie finally does arrive on the scene, things don’t necessarily improve however.
Toler does a top notch job following in Oland’s footsteps and easily makes the role his own. As great as Oland was, I like Toler just as much and in this film, he proved that he had the screen presence necessary to carry the franchise and his performance is easily the best thing about this tepid entry. Although Charlie Chan in Honolulu is a rather dull installment, there is a great scene where Chan’s superior talks to him about the murder case but Charlie thinks he’s talking about his grandbaby. The police chief says “Do you have any clues?” and Chan replies, “Intuition and five dollars say it will be a boy!”