Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Mighty (1998)

The quest for friendship is the noblest cause of all.

Caught between the purest of intentions and unimaginative shortcuts to sentimentality, The Mighty is nevertheless rewarding enough to make it worth seeing. Kieran Culkin stars as Kevin, a terminally ill but spirited young boy who befriends a healthy but illiterate social outcast, Maxwell (Elden Henson). They realize that together they are a stronger, braver force than they are as individuals, and the various opportunities they have to confront persecutors and memories of their bad fathers are handled very effectively by director Peter Chelsom (a very original filmmaker who made the terrific Funny Bones). The curious adult casting includes Sharon Stone (a natural scene-stealer even when she doesn't intend it) as Kevin's saintly mother, and Gillian Anderson in a quite-unbelievable supporting role. Chelsom's lapses in judgment are not terribly significant (imaginary appearances by Camelot-era knights on horseback are the most annoying), though one could argue that a plot to kidnap one of the boys is a cheesy way to underscore the kids' redemptive loyalty to one another. Still, all in all, you can laugh and cry at this tale of rare friendship, and admire the sensitive performances by Chelsom's younger players. --Tom Keogh

From The New Yorker
Peter Chelsom's movie is about two boys. One of them, the smart and inventive Kevin (Kieran Culkin), is crippled by a degenerative disease; the other, the slow and wretched Maxwell (Elden Henson), is twice Kevin's size and barely able to look the world in the face. The long and the short of it is that they join forces and make a fine team, winning respect at school and solving the perilous problem of Max's vicious father. Running through their tale is an unlikely Arthurian motif; once Max has hoisted Kevin onto his shoulders, they picture themselves as a single unit-a heroic knight on horseback. Chelsom overdoes their dream, flashing all too often, and too obviously, to shots of real knights in armor; you need the wildness of a Terry Gilliam to make this kind of conceit work. The film threatens to become heavy; what rescues it is the rough and lively performances of the kids, and of Sharon Stone, who makes the most of her supporting role as Kevin's bravely beleaguered mother. With a gonzo cast that includes Gillian Anderson and Meat Loaf. -Anthony Lane Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

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