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IN SHORT: Solid Acting and Pretty Solid Story. Good flick.
As always, no comparison is made to the Source Material.
There's a great list of name-brand actors at the top of this page, but they form a well-balanced supporting cast in this almost perfect piece of moviemaking. Cranky wishes he could remember the last time he saw a movie subdivided into chapters, like a book, the way The Mighty is. Leonard Maltin has that kind of memory. Cranky lost that retention of past detail when he was disabled a decade ago. Long time readers know that. The only reason I mention it is that one of the few button pushing events in this career I find myself in is the use of medical information or disability as part of a character construct. Usually a writer has no idea what he/she is putting to paper, and that ticks me off righteously.
That is not the case in The Mighty, a movie about two kidlets suffering from differing emotional and physical traumas. This movie is funny and touching, filled with flights of fantasy and sobering reality. The parents and grandparents may be the name stars, but the kids are center stage at all times.
Two-time Seventh Grader Max Kane (Elden Henson) is emotionally scarred due to the murder of his mother by his father. He cannot read well, though he is impressively strong and physically large. His grandparents (Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton) are his guardians and protectors but he has no friends. Max feels like a sideshow freak, and is tormented by fellow school kids and a local gang.
Into the house next door moves single mom Gwen (Sharon Stone) and her son Kevin Kieran Culkin). Kevin suffers from a deadly degenerative disease called Morquio's Syndrome, which has twisted his spine and forces him to walk with crutches and live with braces on his legs. As inadequate compensation, he is gifted with an exceptional brain, a sharp sense of humor and enough optimism to confound you "normal" people. This twelve year old maintains the occasional fantasy of being a Knight, along the lines of those in King Arthur's court. While that may strike you as an emotional act of denial it is not. It is an act of protection.
A brain without a body. A body whose brain has shut down. Separate, they are freaks. Combined they are Freak the Mighty, inspired by tales of Camelot and standing up to the other kidlet scum who pick on the weak. It is a fairy tale. It is a good tale.
Then, reality rears its ugly head when the murderous dad is released on parole. Whimsy is replaced by fear and one-half of a Knight must overcome extreme obstacles on his real life quest to save his Other. Two usually drunk, white trash friends of the dad (Gillian Anderson and Meat Loaf) are accessories after the fact to the events that occur, but one has been aided by the littlest Knight, who returned a stolen purse to her, and her loyalties are torn. Anderson nails the lid on Scully, her television persona of The X-Files. Fans of that show may get real confused.
Across the board, the acting performances are so balanced that the script and production shine. There is nothing average about the jobs done by Stone or Rowlands or Stanton. They're just all outdone by Culkin and Henson. Only one piece of the story felt out of place to Cranky and, frankly, unbelievable. The spell cast by the work makes it easy to overlook the sequence, in which Max hot-wires a van. That may be possible in the UK, where original author Rodman Philbrick hails from, but in modern day Cincinnati? Cranky thinks not.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Mighty, he would have paid . . .
As the Oscar-wannabe field starts jockeying for position, the serious flicks get rated all the more seriously. The Mighty makes my tickler list at minimum for Kiernan, but he's relatively young. As for Sharon and the other actors, it's too soon to tell what I'll pick, come December.
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