Making the Grades
Once again film makers have brought the classic works of Mark Twain to life with this latest adaptation of The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer. Tom (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and Huck (Brad Renfro), see Injun Joe (Eric Schweig) murder a man. They immediately agree not to tell anyone, fearing that Injun Joe will come after them. Yet that agreement means an innocent man will be hung.
Tom wrestles with his decision day and night. He knows what he should do, but is afraid of Injun Joe and breaking the oath of silence he made with Huck. Even though this story was penned over one hundred years ago, the tension of the big moment in the courtroom still comes through, and you can appreciate how this example can apply to many circumstances faced by children today.
The main concern for some parents may be the amount of violence used to tell the story in the 1990's. Injun Joe had to be threatening for the audience to feel Tom's dilemma, but I felt the murder in the graveyard and another scene where Joe threatens to kill Tom, to be more frightening than necessary. Some of these scenes include minor profanities and considering the age group interested in this movie, you may want to view it before presenting it to your younger children.
Much of the classic Twain humor is retained in the film, with the famous whitewashing scene being one of my favorites as Tom talks his friends into paying him so they can do his work. The attention to detail in re-creating the time period is another strong point of the movie, although Taylor Thomas could never quite get to the point where he looks the part of the dirty Sawyer I imagine, but then what movie ever has depicted the 1800's as they really were? Only through the words of Twain are you able to glimpse into the realities of this era, so encourage your children to find The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn at the local bookstore or library.