BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jun 19th, 2007 •

Share This:

(Disney Home Entertainment) 2007.
96 mins / 16X9 AR / MPAA Rating: ‘PG’

Two young students bond under an onslaught of peer abuse and isolation. They’re not so much nerds as outsiders – he’s handsome and interested in art, she’s hypnotically pretty but new in town and finding it hard to warm up to other kids (there never appeared to be much thought given to casting the lead roles less attractively; Dakota Fanning was first offered the female lead) – and it’s their social, emotional and aesthetic stations in life that ostracize them from teen cliques and draws them towards one another, and from there, to a fantasy world in the forest just beyond their homes.

AnnaSophia Robb could rival Lon Chaney Sr. She is the Girl of a Thousand Faces. There are so many expressions contained in her visage that she seems hard put to keep them under control. Her plastic features are the perfect counter-balance to Josh Hutcherson’s placid, mournful pose of self-doubt. Those wishing more of Ms. Robb than they get in the film (for reasons I won’t divulge) can see her warble the film’s popular title song in a supplementary music video.

Robert Patrick plays one of the better redneck fathers since Peter Weller scared us in Michael Apted’s FIRSTBORN (’84). He projects a forlorn resignation, an inability to relate to his son’s budding artistic bent, but a caring paternal nature. It’s the most realized performance in the film.

Lauren Clinton essays the role of Janice Avery, the girl bully at school, looking like a teenage Drew Barrymore on steroids. She can act, but isn’t given much opportunity to do so. Her role feels cauterized.
As for the fantasy elements, it is possible that the poster art, and probably the theatrical trailer, gave that aspect of the narrative too much weight. Even I came to the DVD with high CGI expectations – thinking NEVERENDING STORY – whereas in fact, although the special effects are quite good, they are reined in to the degree that they are finally a misleading selling point for the movie. There is, for instance, one particular fantasy creature, a 30-foot-tall humanoid, who is so sweet and compelling to watch, so interestingly conceived, that I wish there’d been much more of him. The magical transformational nature of the forest, however, is well captured by DP Michael (RAGING BULL, TAXI DRIVER) Chapman.
In addition to the music video, there are two commentary tracks, one featuring the two young stars. That will be of interest to kids, as much is discussed not only about the film but about issues related to their age range.

Despite its downbeat nature, or perhaps because of it, the film performed quite well at the box-office – a couple hundred million worldwide. And it’s not the first time the book has been given the celluloid treatment. In ’85 it was a one-hour TV film directed by Eric Till.

Bonus Features:
Two commentary tracks – the first with the director, the screenwriter, and the producer, the second with actors Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb, and Producer Lauren Levine.
Featurette on Digital Imagination.
Music Video.

Directed by Gabor Csopo.
Screenplay by Jeff Stockwell and David Patterson.
With: Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel.

Tagged as:
Share This Article: Digg it | | Google | StumbleUpon | Technorati

Leave a Comment

(Comments are moderated and will be approved at FIR's discretion, please allow time to be displayed)