Tuck Everlasting (2002)
This handsome adaptation of Natalie Babbitt's same-titled 1975 novel for young readers is not without missteps, but the strength of the story and its timeless meditation on life and death remain worthwhile.
Set in 1914, the film stars Alexis Bledel as Winnie Foster, a sheltered young girl from a well-to-do family who discovers an awesome secret previously known only to a curious family of rustic country people, the Tucks.
Winnie's discovery raises questions about the nature of life and why we die. Like Babbitt's book, the film challenges us to imagine how freedom from suffering and death could possibly be fitted into this life.
All-too-plausible scenarios are suggested by the Tucks' tragic experiences and isolated existence, and by the alarming plans made by the mysterious Man in the Yellow Suit (a scene-stealing Ben Kingsley).
The film benefits from fine performances by Sissy Spacek and William Hurt but fritters too much time with the cute romance between Winnie and Jesse Tuck
(Jonathan Jackson). Of the film's departures from the book, perhaps the most welcome, is a fleeting liturgical mention of “sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.”
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Tyrone Powers is Zorro in this enjoyable remake of the 1920 silent classic starring Douglas Fair banks Sr. Powers can't match the original Zorro's astonishing acrobatics and doesn't try — but the rousing climactic duel against Basil Rathbone's villainous Captain Esteban, one of the best swordfights ever filmed, almost makes up for it. Powers also brings more romantic feeling to his scenes with the heroine (Linda Darnell) who prefers Zorro to Don Diego.
The 1940 film further benefits from a more coherent story in which we see Zorro's origin, as Diego returns from Spain to a California beset by injustice. The well-written script shows an angrily bewildered Diego shrewdly analyzing this new situation, instinctively adopting a dandyish persona to hide behind even before deciding what to do. Zorro's Catholic milieu is again positively portrayed, though with less depth than in the original. Eugene Pallette — Friar Tuck in the 1938 Robin Hood — plays a similarly pugnacious, stalwart clergyman, and Diego casually displays a flash of Marian sentiment. (“Thank you, Mother,” he says as he retrieves stolen tax money hidden behind a statue.) The social-justice themes, too, play out with feeling, culminating in a popular uprising against the tyrannical alcalde.
Based on the children's book Freak the Mighty, this film tells the story of a remarkable friendship be tween two young boys, both outcasts. Max (Elden Ratliff) is dull-witted but intimidating; Kevin (Kieran Culkin) is bright but crippled by Morquio's Syndrome.
At first Max, a loner, is dubious about the relationship, but Kevin puts it this way: “Don't think of it as a friendship; think of it as a business proposition. You need a brain, and I need legs — and the Wizard of Oz doesn't live in South Cincinnati.” Kevin expands Max's horizons by tutoring him in reading and writing and introducing him to imaginative literature. Max carries Kevin around on his shoulders and helps him face down bullies.
This sensitive, sometimes rousing story about the value of friendship, imagination, reading and courage benefits from a strong supporting cast that includes Sharon Stone, James Gandolfini and Gillian Anderson. Here's a family film that's more nuanced and complex than much supposedly more mature movie fare.