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Toon Talk: Tuck Everlasting DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt (archives)
March 3, 2003
Kirby reviews DVD release of the live-action film Tuck Everlasting.

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

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(c) Disney

Tuck Everlasting DVD
Forever Young
“Don’t be afraid of life … be afraid of the unlived life.”

Imagine that you could stop the hands of time … that you could remain, exactly as you are right at this moment, for the rest of eternity: never aging, never sick, never injured, and never, ever to die … would you do it?

That is the thought provoking theme for Tuck Everlasting, the beautifully realized adaptation of Natalie Babbitt’s novel for young people that was released last Fall with minimal fanfare and moderate commercial success. Newly released on video and DVD, now is the time to discover this underrated gem, a film that joins such other recent fare as The Princess Diaries and The Rookie in revitalizing the time-honored tradition of quality live action family films from the Disney Studio.

The story is told through the eyes of 15-year old Winifred ‘Winnie’ Foster (Gilmore Girl Alexis Bledel); growing up in a stuffy Victorian household led by her stern parents (Victor Garber and an almost unrecognizable Amy Irving), Winnie yearns for something more (not unlike another Disney heroine, Belle, whom Bledel also ironically resembles). When she stumbles upon a boy in the woods drinking from a spring at the base of tree, she unexpectedly finds what she didn’t even know she was looking for, in ways that she could have never imagined, and her life is forever changed.

The boy is Jesse Tuck (General Hospital’s Jonathan Jackson), and he leads Winnie through her adventure of discovery, of discovering exactly what makes the Tucks everlasting, and also into her first feelings of love. Jesse’s family, which includes patriarch Angus and his wife Mae (William Hurt and Sissy Spacek, both exceptional as always even with distracting Scottish accents) and bitter older brother Miles (Party of Five’s Scott Bairstow), unknowingly drank from that spring … over a century before. They were frozen in time, blessed (or cursed?) with immortal life.

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The Tucks have been forced into hiding, silently watching from the sidelines as the years go by, to avoid revealing their fate. Their secret must not be known to the world, for the consequences of such a discovery could prove disastrous to mankind itself. Alas, they cannot run forever, and the inevitable may be sooner then they think: a mysterious Man in a Yellow Suit (a wily, creepy Ben Kingsley) is closing in on the Tucks, and the opportunity he has been waiting for may be nigh due to presence of Winnie in their midst.

As ably brought to the screen by director Jay Russell (the equally underrated My Dog Skip) and screenwriter James V. Hart (who dealt with similar themes of immortality and ‘never growing up’ with his scripts for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Hook), Tuck Everlasting touches on some pretty heady topics (religion, murder, deceit) one usually doesn’t associate with family films. But it never shies away from the issues it addresses, and it never dissolves into the maudlin self-righteousness that it so easily could have become, a la your typical Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie. Even the love story, with such shots as the young lovers frolicking through fields and forests, remains sweet and true.

Credit is also due to the gorgeously rich cinematography of James L. Carter, the effective production design by Tony Burrough and Ray Kluga, and the enchanting, Gaelic-influenced score by William Ross.

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