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Tuck Everlasting

Starring Alexis Bledel, Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek, Jonathan Jackson and William Hurt
Screenplay by Jeffrey Lieber and James V. Hart
Based on the book by Natalie Babbitt
Directed by Jay Russell

IN SHORT: for teen girls or for any ex-teen girl who read the book while still in the post kidlet stage. [PG for some violence. minutes]

Winnie Foster (Alexis Bledel) falls for Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson), whose family -- mom May Foster (Sissy Spacek), dad Angus Foster (William Hurt) and brother Miles (Scott Bairstow) have a big secret to hide from the rest of the world. For reasons involving that secret, the Tucks are being sought out by the potentially evil and definitely mysterious Man in the Yellow Suit (Ben Kingsley). In Winnie's way most of the time is a controlling mother (Amy Irving) who would be a witch by a different name in a different time. So controlling is she that, when Winnie is told that she is to be shipped off to a "finishing school," they youngster runs away into the dark and dense woods that surround her home. She gets lost and stumbles upon Jesse, who is drinking from a small spring at the base of an oak tree. When she tries to get a drink, he forcibly restrains her from doing so. Brother Miles grabs up the girl to take her to Father, who has declared that no stranger can take news of the Tuck family whereabouts to the outside community.

Uh oh.

Tuck Everlasting is, at its heart, a story of a young woman's first love and of a life changing decision she must make which will affect that love, now and forevermore. It's conflicts are two: the boy and his family protect a secret that keeps them separate from the rest of society (and if the girl is to truly fall in love, she will have to join them in that separation) and there is that Man in a Yellow Suit who has nefarious plans for the family's secret -- they know the location of a spring that can well be called The Fountain of Youth for, once they drank from it over eighty years earlier, none have aged. Neither can they be killed, by accident or by war. The family is, as you may imagine, almost miserable with age and bears the weight of responsibility well on their shoulders. Before bringing anyone into the family, they must know that there is no turning back.

But while Winnie is learning the ways of this particular family group, the outside community is in a general panic. The Fosters own the town and their money has fueled posses and search parties, all of whom are convinced that Winnie has been kidnapped . . . and probably by that man in the Yellow Suit, whom Mrs Foster took an instant dislike to at the beginning of the film. The Suit is innocent and, unbeknownst to anyone in the town, he seeks the Tuck family because he knows they know the location of the spring. With ownership of that land, which he gets from Mr. Foster in exchange for information leading to Winnie's rescue, he can sell the water and make a fortune. The Suit has a mean and evil heart. Jesse's parents are a good and protective people, which is why they'll sit in jail, sentenced to death for an unspeakable crime about which we won't speak, by the end of the film.

We hate it when an entire Act of a story hinges on the fact that one character won't tell the whole truth, or in this case doesn't bother to correct the misinterpretation of events. The character knows everyone else is wrong. The audience has already seen that the character knows everyone else is wrong. Silence drives the rest of the story of Tuck Everlasting. It's a cheap trick and sorry storytelling made even worse by the fact that this bad adaptation -- and we know it's a bad adaptation because they are always marked by significant characters making surprise entrances and/or exits. In this case, it is Winnie's grandmother, a character never mentioned or seen until a deathbed scene late in the film. Not only is her presence a surprise, the effect is doubled as the film implies that this character has been living in the Foster house all along. She's not seen or heard from or even mentioned while Winnie is missing and May is panicking. Then, poof! deathbed scene.

Then again, we're not a teenaged girl and won't overlook such nonsense. The romantic center, once all the pick and choose crap is out of the way is whether or not Winnie will drink from the spring and await the promised return of her beloved Jesse who has fled Treegap Station to go sightseeing all around the world . The time of this story is placed just prior to World War I, which makes the Tuck family's decision all the more curious. Telling you that doesn't spoil what's left of the original story in this adaptation that had all the girls sitting around us walking out happily babbling about how great the movie was . . . and about all the other stories in the book that didn't make it onto the big screen. That reaction was no big surprise to us. Tuck Everlasting, for those of you who haven't read the novel (as this site insists you shouldn't have to) is a clunky adaptation whose individual scenes don't always fit like a glove.

From our point of view, a bad adaptation is always On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Tuck Everlasting, he would have paid . . .


rent (unless Tuck Everlasting was your first, fondly remembered romance novel. Then you'll want to see it and tell us we don't have a romantic bone in our body.)

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