Tara McNamara's Review of "Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn"

Thanks, Tara! From That Was Something:

My family lives in a small beach town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The school, the shops, the houses and the beach are all about ½ mile apart so that the kids are fairly free range – and with cell phones, they can check in regularly so parents such as myself can keep tabs. Watching a film like Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn reminds me just how much freedom and space kids used to enjoy and, at the same time, be grateful those days are over. Tom and Huck’s roaming, unsupervised behavior puts them in frequent danger.

Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn is an appropriate name for this film, as it borrows from both “The Adventures of…” novels by Mark Twain and mixes them up a little and, at the same time, leaves a lot out. Therefore, this film will not work for kids looking to getting out of school reading assignments (teachers rejoice!). What might be a fun challenge, though, is for kids to see the movie, then read the novels and note the differences – and it might be helpful too, once they’ve envisioned it, to get through the “olden days” vernacular.

On the other hand, other than the villain being named “Injun Joe,” (and really, it would be so untrue to the novel to change it), the film avoids the political incorrectness of the era. Just like the books, Huck Finn still smokes a pipe and the boys witness a murder and see some dead people, and knives and guns are also put into use (plus side: Muff Potter's trial does show the purpose of the judicial system)! Unless your child is sensitive, though, I think it's appropriate and enjoyable for children as young as 8.

This film has taken its time getting to release, but perhaps that’s for the best as the movie’s stars will all be familiar to middle-schoolers - and as a parent, the actors are perfectly cast as I know I always envisioned them. Tom Sawyer is a wholesome scamp as played by Joel Courtney, whose CW series “The Messengers” premieres April 17. Huckleberry Finn is Disney heartthrob Jake T. Austin (now on ABC Family’s “The Fosters”), who comes off like a young Brad Pitt. It's understandable why Tom falls for beautiful good girl Becky Thatcher as played by Katherine McNamara (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials) And, kids will appreciate realizing Ben Rogers is none other than Noah Munck, best known as “Gibby” on “iCarly” and now a recurring character on ABC’s “The Goldbergs.”

While Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn isn't going to serve as the Cliff Notes version, it does work as a great intro into these wonderful American classics.

Joel Courtney