Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Powder”

School is winding down in my area and to celebrate the end of the academic year, it’s time to look at Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures films with a school vibe. For the first in our ‘School’s Out for the Summer’ we journey back to 1995 with Powder.

The Plot

On a remote farm in rural Texas, an elder farmer is found dead from natural causes, but the family secret in the basement is discovered. An unknown grandson named Jeremy, has been living in the house with the grandfather having no contact with the outside world.

When Sheriff Barnham arrives, he employs the help of Jessie Caldwell to coax the boy out of the shadows of the basement. Jeremy is an albino and can conduct electricity. Jeremy is a self-taught learner, and the world he is about to enter is like nothing that he has read about.

Since Jeremy is a minor and with no family, Jessie brings him to the state-run home for boys. Trying to adjust to his new surroundings, his compatriots in the state home are less than welcoming. When he attends high school in local town, Jeremy makes friends with Lindsay, but is ridiculed and harassed by bullies.

As Jeremy starts to see the world for his own, he realizes that people can he helpful but also a threat. Despite encouragement from teachers like Donald Ripley and Jessie, Jeremy just wants to go home. Feeling isolated and alone Jeremy makes a dash for the family farm, hoping to find meaning for what he has experienced.

The Good

Sean Patrick Flannery brings a wonder and innocence to Jeremy that could be a difficult task. Flannery must carry the movie on his back, since he is the central figure, and he does this with a charm and wit, with a little bit of mystery.  The audience sees the world through the eyes of Jeremy, and it is through the grace and gentleness that Flannery gives to the character that makes us care so much for him.

Having a supporting cast of Lance Henriksen, Mary Steenburgen, and Jeff Goldblum can only make a film better. While Steenburgen and Goldblum are their usual stars, it’s Lance Henriksen that takes the cake for surprising supporting actor.

Lance Henriksen is not the first person one would visualize in the role of Sheriff Barnham, but he is perfect in the authority figure who needs Jeremy to give him some strength through a difficult part of his life. His scenes in the bedroom with Jeremy are heartfelt and touching, that it would be impossible not to tear up while watching.

The Bad and the Ugly

One of the biggest problems I have with the film is the treatment of Jeremy by the well-meaning people. Jessie seems nice and caring, but places Jeremy in the state facility for boys. The level of violence that Jeremy endures with no repercussions is incredible.  Plus, for a state-run facility, there’s no supervision whatsoever.

Jeremy is obviously different from everyone else, and despite the kind words by Jessie, she ships him off to the local high school with no preparation. It’s like sending a wounded animal for a swim in the shark pen. What was Jessie thinking?

The overnight camping scene with the boys where they get guns to go hunting, which are supplied by the deputy, is one of the most ridiculous aspects of the story. Who in their right minds would do that?

The ending! I did not like the ending. I get it. I understand why, but I feel like there was a better way to wrap up this story.

Beyond the Film Facts

  • The tagline for the movie is “Pure energy has a name”. I’m not sure how this would have appealed to possible movie goers.
  • Sean Patrick Flannery was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance.
  • Christopher Reeve was offered the role of Donald Ripley but turned it down.
  • Jane Seymour and Kim Basinger were considered for the role of Jessie.
  • Paul Hogan (Oh my goodness this would have been awesome), Peter Fonda, Patrick Stewart, and Terrence Stamp were considered for the role of Sheriff Barnum.
  • There is a considerable amount of controversy about the hiring of director Victor Salva. Cast and crew learned late into production that he was convicted of sexual misconduct with an underage actor from a previous film.  
  • His victim Nathan Winters protested the opening of the film.
  • Legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith composed the score for the film.
  • Ray Wise (always an excellent addition to any film) had a small role in the film.

The Streamy Award

{The following four categories are based on a Film Reel scale.

1 Reel-Watch on your Smartphone, 2 Reels-Tablet Time, 3 Reels-Travel Entertainment, 4 Reels-Big Screen Event}

There are great moments in Powder, but they don’t add up to much as an overall story. I really enjoyed Sean Patrick Flannery, but I don’t think he was allowed to really develop the personality of Jeremy that the film desperately needed. Jeff Goldblum was great, so was Mary Steenburgen, but Lance Henriksen is the MVP for the supporting players.

Though there are great parts in the film, the movie itself needed more and that is why I can only give it a 1 Reel rating.

Cast and Crew

  • Sean Patrick Flannery as Jeremy ‘Powder’ Wade
  • Lance Henriksen Sheriff Barnum
  • Mary Steenburgen as Jessie Caldwell
  • Jeff Goldblum as Donald Ripley
  • Missy Crider as Lindsay

Directed by Victor Salva

Produced by Hollywood Pictures / Caravan Pictures

Release Date: October 27, 1995

Budget: $9 and half million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $30,862,156

Coming Soon

Next week, school is in session as Colin Farrell is recruited for the CIA. Will he pass the test and graduate from ‘The Farm’ or will he fail? Only Al Pacino knows for sure.