Ok readers, we’re going to begin with a question this week: ever seen the movie “Holes” (2003)?
It’s based on the book of the same name by Louis Sachar, an author who specializes in weird kids’ books (such as “Wayside School is Falling Down” and “Sideways Stories From Wayside School”). The movie version of the Newbery Medal-winning YA novel is a completely faithful adaptation that unfortunately lacks all the charm of the crazy-fun book.
“Tuck Everlasting,” directed by Jay Russell, is a lot like that too. The book is a charmer and a surprising look at the downsides of immortality, while the movie has all the right pieces but just kind of lays there on screen, hoping the audience will fill in the blanks.
The story starts out well at least; Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) is a 15 year old girl living in the early part of the 20th century. She’s a tomboy through and through, but her mother wants her to be a proper young lady, much to Winnie’s horror. Once Winnie is informed that she will be attending a boarding school that will inevitably drive out all that youthful exuberance, she runs away into the forest, where she meets Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson), a cute boy whose family hides a dark secret: immortality and how to get it.
I won’t give too much away after that, but well, Winnie and Jesse get to enjoy a short summer romance while his family decides whether they can trust her with knowledge that could kill the world.
One of the big faults comes down to the casting; Bledel makes for a convincing teenager, but her awkwardness on screen seems more like the actress is uncomfortable, not the character. Jackson kind of suffers from the same thing, but his character isn’t a character so much as a one-note cutout (he’s young, he loves being young, blah blah blah). It’s not all their fault; the movie is only 88 minutes long and unfortunately doesn’t take the time to develop the characters at the heart of this little romance.
And there are some bright spots: Sissy Spacek, who plays Jesse’s mother, is a standout in a small role. Likewise, Victor Garber and Amy Irving shine as Winnie’s concerned parents, and Ben Kingsley steals the show as the villainous Man in the Yellow Suit (yes, the character didn’t get a name).
End of the day, “Tuck Everlasting” is just not that good; it lacks all the magic of the novel and never supplies its own to the screen.
“Tuck Everlasting” (2002)
Written by Jeffrey Lieber and James V. Hart
Directed by Jay Russell
Starring: Alexis Bledel (Winnie Foster)
Jonathan Jackson (Jesse Tuck)
Sissy Spacek (Mae Tuck)
Victor Garber (Robert Foster)
Amy Irving (Mother Foster)
Ben Kingsley (Man)