Making the Grades
Walt Disney presents the latest of many film versions of this time honoured story. Huck, a character based on a friend of the original author, Mark Twain, is a rough-edged little boy with an alcoholic father that wants to use him to the point of abuse. Finally, Huck escapes and takes a trip down the Mississippi with his freedom seeking slave friend, Jim.
I suspect that Canadian's are somewhat negligent of the importance of Twain's literature in American history. For his day, Twain wrote stories that pushed the limits of acceptance by the populace, yet carried a double-edged irony that gave them a deeper meaning.
It is that loss of deeper meaning where this movie has fault. It does a fine job illustrating the adventures of Huck and Jim, yet seems to court around the subjects of the heart, such as Huck's difficulty in accepting Jim as a human being, and not a slave. The root of the problem really is that Twain taught in an honest way, using the word "nigger" within a novel that gave many readers their first taste of racial equality.
Well, there are no "niggers" in a Disney movie, and as a result, the violence and language seem to exist with no particular reason except to entertain and push along the story line. The adventures are exciting and interesting, and would probably hold the interest of a 1990's audience far better than the novel. However, the thieves and the slaves are here with the main focus on Huck and his creativity in freeing himself and Jim from trouble rather than bondage.
In respect to the language and violence, they were present in Twain's work, and were probably even worse in reality, therefore these elements may be justified within the film, but without values attached, they become merely entertainment.