Tuck Everlasting falls squarely into the “nice movie” category: it has a nice story, some nice acting, some nice moments, some nice cinematography, though very little about the movie stands out as excellent. But I have to be honest and say that Tuck Everlasting fits into another category as well: movies that are far better than I’d though they’d be.
The story, based on the novel by Natalie Babbitt, centers on 15-year-old Winnie Foster (Gilmore Girls‘ Alexis Bledel, who couldn’t possibly look any more pure and winsome) and her discovery of a family of immortals, the Tucks, living in the woods on her family’s property. Winnie meets the youngest Tuck, Jesse (Jonathan Jackson, who will always be Lucky Spencer to me), and the two of them of course fall in love and be pretty and do pretty things together. The serious stumbling blocks in their relationship, of course, comes from the fact that Jesse will be seventeen forever and Winnie will not (unless she drinks from the spring that granted the Tucks their immortality in the first place). There’s also the problem of a mysterious man in a yellow suit with really horrible hair (Ben Kinglsey) stalking the Tuck family, determined to become immortal himself, but honestly, his part of the plot (the only place were any real action comes into the story) doesn’t feel like anywhere near as important as the decision Winnie has to make.
|Tuck Everlasting (2002)|
James V. Hart
If while reading that last paragraph you hit the words “Ben Kinglsey” and said to yourself “Hey, what the hell is Ben Kinglsey doing in this movie?” then I’m with you. Tuck Everlasting has a surprisingly good batch of actors in the adult roles. In addition to Kingsley, the movie’s got an effectively understated William Hurt as the Tuck paterfamilias and a not-quite-so-understated Sissy Spacek as his wife, plus Alias‘ Victor Garber and Amy Irving as Winnie’s folks. That’s some impressive acting chops for a Disney family flick.
And for being a Disney family flick, Tuck Everlasting deals with some fairly weighty issues, most notably the discussion of what it truly means to live. If a person can’t age, can’t die, can that person truly be called living? The Tucks themselves are permanently stuck–they can never have any meaningful, lasting relationships with anyone except each other. Even if Winnie stayed with Jesse for the rest of her natural life, “lasting” to her could still only ever be “temporary” to Jesse. Angus Tuck tells Winnie that dying is part and parcel with living–she shouldn’t be afraid of death, only of not living her life. Pretty heady material from The Mouse House but one that might hit home with the teen and preteen girls at which this movie’s aimed.
(And no, I’m not a teen or preteen girl…my watching this movie is a direct result of my wife getting her own Netflix queue.)
The one big problem I had with Tuck Everlasting was the voiceover narration, provided by Elizabeth Shue. It wasn’t Shue’s reading of it but rather that the narration was there at all: it didn’t say anything that we couldn’t get from simply watching the movie. Removing the narration altogether would have made the movie stronger.