Tuck Everlasting

Disney's output is more diverse than it was 40 years ago, but it can still turn out kids' entertainment made from old molds. For years, the studio's live-action films were reliably handsome, literal, and a little too bland for their own good, even if some transcended their formulas. A Disneyfied adaptation of Natalie Babbitt's beloved children's novel, Tuck Everlasting comes directly from the old school. Set shortly before the onset of WWI, Tuck concerns the adventures of a rebellious 15-year-old (Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel), who stumbles on a strange family living in the woods owned by her prosperous father (Victor Garber). Headed by William Hurt and Sissy Spacek, the Tucks, as she comes to know them, live a life that seems old-fashioned but turns out simply to be old. Pioneers from nearly a century before, the family once unwittingly shared a drink from a magical fountain, and now can neither grow old nor die, a discovery that complicates Bledel's budding romance with Spacek and Hurt's son, Jonathan Jackson. Nicely shot by My Dog Skip director Jay Russell, the film is both well-acted and well-cast, with the exception of Hurt, who seems more menacing than parental. (When he conducts a private conference with Bledel on a canoe, the scene eerily echoes a famous moment from The Godfather: Part II). The contrast between the Tucks' rustic frontier lifestyle and the European affectations of Bledel's family, and the steady march of progress that threatens to uproot the Tuck home, even get at more resonant themes. Unfortunately, Russell paces the film as if trying to demonstrate what eternity feels like. When the plot begs to move forward, the film keeps lingering over friendly fawns and long walks through the forest. The attention spans of adult viewers exposed to films like Swordfish and Bad Company may find it hard to take.

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