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Tuck Everlasting (PG)

Walt Disney Pictures
Official Site
Director: Jay Russell
Producers: Jane Startz, Marc Abraham
Written by: Jeffrey Lieber, James V. Hart
Cast: Alexis Bledel, Sissy Spacek, Ben Kingsley, Amy Irving, Jonathan Jackson, Victor Garber, Scott Bairstow, William Hurt

Rating: out of 5

The turning wheel of Tuck Everlasting begins as disparate lives dovetail into one tale. The Tucks, the Fosters, and the Man in the Yellow Suit are the constituents of this story set in the early 1900s; the life unlived is the crux upon which they turn.

Protagonist Winifred Foster (Bledel, from the WB’s “Gilmore Girls”) is a young girl searching for a way out of her constrained lifestyle. Jesse Tuck (Jackson, the old Lucky from ABC’s “General Hospital”) is simply searching for love. The Man in the Yellow Suit (Kingsley) is searching for the Tucks, and more importantly, the source of their secret. Then Winnie’s parents begin the search for her, as she disappears at the beginning of the film to stay with the Tucks, for days, then weeks, then who knows how long. Needless to say, there’s a lot of searching going on in this film.

With the Tucks, Winnie’s unbridled personality is set free and she falls in love with the youngest son, Jesse. The Man in the Yellow Suit successfully finds the Tucks, but unfortunately meets his fate soon after. The Fosters eventually find Winnie. But the real question is, will the audience find merit in this lyrical text translated onto the movie screen?

Bringing an excellent novel to the big screen is never an easy task. Fans will always criticize the final product regardless of its merit. Natalie Babbitt’s children’s novel Tuck Everlasting is a fine story, but surprisingly Disney’s new adaptation of the novel wasn’t a terribly bad ride. Lambasting the film would have been easy had it been completely ineffectual or drab. However, there are some highlights worth mentioning.

A component of Tuck Everlasting’s partial success is due to the scenery in the movie, more so than any other factor. It is, in one word, spectacular, and as a result the turn of the last century territory of Treegap becomes a character in and of itself. Much of the filming was done in Harford County, Maryland, and within its Susquehanna State Park. The lyricism of the story, which is so key to the integrity of the book, is effectively brought to life through wide panning shots of springtime fields, glistening lakes bathed in sunlight, and a breathtakingly blue waterfalls.

In addition to the backdrops, a few actors shine as well. Spacek’s performance as Mae Tuck gives the movie a much-needed extra oomph toward the eerie, but loving, undertone of the book. And although William Hurt’s role is small, his acting is deft as the leader of the eternal Tuck clan. The role of the Man in the Yellow Suit is also small, but Kingsley delivers an articulate performance in his few moments on screen. In general, the casting is on par on all fronts.

Despite these highlights, negative aspects are noticeable amidst the shimmers of promise. The most obvious is the character development. The majority of the characters fail to develop fully, even though they have ample screen time to do so. (A few scenes are entirely too long, and although beautiful, the extra seconds seem unnecessary.) Concerning the character development, Winnie’s parents are lacking the most. Whether it was the adapted screenplay or the direction, they simply don’t seem oppressive enough to warrant their daughter feeling so stifled.

The film presents Natalie Babbitt’s story in a gentle way with no outstandingly rough edges (which wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing). Although the novel is intended for children, the subject matter translates a bit differently on screen, and ends up being a little too heavy for the youngest of audience members. All in all, the movie is slow and beautiful like the novel itself, but might be a little too humdrum and deliberate for the general public.

—Sandra M. Ogle



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