Movie Review: "Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn"
Takeaway: Joel Courtney (Joe Lamb in the 2011 Steven Spielberg/JJ Abrams film Super 8, for which he received critical acclaim and a Saturn Award) is absolutely adorable in the role of Tom... The actors are perfectly typecast and bring alive Mark Twain’s characters.
From The Week:
It’s only natural for expectations to be set high from a film based on a children’s classic, especially a muchloved and widely read one like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. You tend to go into the cinema with preconceived notions. That despite the many attempts that have already been made to capture the scenes in the same vividness that the writer portrayed with the power of just his written word.
It seems impossible to capture the mood, the colours, the sounds and the smells on film in the same way that Twain could do with his simple words. The first such cinematic attempt was as early as in 1920s, followed by more recent ones in 1973 and then again in 1995, all of which have left readers of the adventures wanting more. The latter two cinematic ventures were based on the same episode The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which he and Huck, Tom's friend from the streets, witness a murder in the graveyard. The two flee to Jackson Island and make a pact never to tell anyone about the incident.
However, when the goodnatured village bumpkin Muff Potter, who has been blamed for the murder, is sentenced to death by hanging, Tom breaks his promise and returns to exonerate him. Injun Joe, the actual murderer, tries to kill Tom during the hearing in court and makes a hasty exit. But soon later, Tom and Huck find references to a treasure and have to face Injun again.
Here too, the elements that are so unique and the very essence of Tom Sawyer’s adventures are depicted the wide expanse of the Mississippi river, the green and tangled Jackson Island, Aunt Polly’s legendary board fence, etc. But these remain just fleeting references without going into the details which made Mark Twain’s narrative so readable. There is no description of the colours or the smells of the people and places along the Mississippi or the Southern antebellum society which endeared readers of this American classic.
There is little rather no humour in the depiction of the ways of the people and their attitudes, particularly racism, that was so entrenched in American societies of the Deep South which Twain showcased. Director Jo Kastner has, however, succeeded in casting the right mix of actors. Fivetime Young Artist Award nominee Jake T Austin in the role of Huck is convincing in his awkwardness as a child from the streets.
Joel Courtney (Joe Lamb in the 2011 Steven Spielberg/JJ Abrams film Super 8, for which he received critical acclaim and a Saturn Award) is absolutely adorable in the role of Tom, as is Katherine McNamara (Myra Santelli in Girl vs Monster), despite her petrified expression through the length of the entire film. The actors are perfectly typecast and bring alive Mark Twain’s characters.