Tuck Everlasting opens as a young man on a motorcycle arrives at a homey plantation and studies an object initially unseen by the audience. Later, the movie reveals that the character is two hundred years old and that he's studying a gravestone in somebody's front lawn.
Why anyone would bury a dead carcass in their front lawn is beyond me, but even more absurd is the dark nature of Tuck Everlasting, a bleak story of life and death (based on a "classic" children's novel I've never heard of). Most people wouldn't associate death with Walt Disney Pictures, but its latest flick deals with that issue and worse, revealing subplots of murder, deceit, execution, and the final moments of a human's life. It's hard to believe the creators of Mickey Mouse could construct such a story.
Disney actually tries to make the bleak themes suitable for family audiences. Obnoxiously good-natured voiceovers explain through preschool vocabulary that, despite all the death and unhappiness, the ending of this movie is happy. However, unless you enjoy answering some of the very difficult questions brought up by the film, I'd think twice before taking a young child to Tuck Everlasting.
But for more mature viewers, the movie tries to offer some food for thought: if you had the choice to life forever, would you? The idea of eternal youth carries limitless possibilities, but Tuck Everlasting doesn't examine any of them. Instead, it becomes distracted by every minor turn of the plot, creating unnecessary characters, distracting subplots, and throwaway ideas. By the end, the whole movie is unnecessary.
The story takes place during the late 1800s. It follows a family (Sissy Spacek, William Hurt, Scott Bairstow, and Jonathan Jackson) who each once drank from a magic spring in a wooded area and now possess eternal youth. Now, over 100 years old, the family struggles to keep their lives a secret from the real world as they live in seclusion and privacy. A teenage girl named Winnie (Alexis Bledel) discovers Jesse Tuck (Jackson) drinking the magic water and ends up living with the Tucks for a few weeks while they explain their situation to her. Meanwhile, her family seeks help from the police and a mysterious man in a yellow suit (Ben Kingsley) to find their missing daughter.
The movie explains that only one drink from the water provides the consumer with eternal youth. So why would Jesse drink from the spring again if his family is so bent on concealing its existence?
But never mind that, as Winnie and Jesse become instantly infatuated with each other. Tuck Everlasting then tries to sell this inseparable passion between characters that have only known each other a few weeks. Now, love at first sight might occur once in a blue moon, and their previous lack of social communication might influence their infatuation, but the things this movie tries to get the audience to buy just won't fly with most intelligent viewers.
Jonathan Jackson, a mixture of Leonardo DiCaprio and Chris Klein, recites his dialogue with enough believable excitement to make cardboard entertaining. His lack of passion and charisma inspires laughs, especially during his scenes with Bledel, who possess about the same amount of talent. Only Kingsley has fun with his character... and the movie eliminates his character far too early. That's a pity, because he's the only interesting thing in the entire movie. His motives are unknown to the audience until his last scene standing, but his sly mischievousness haunts the audience into knowing that there's something more behind his innocent whistle.
All of which finally leads to the ending, a horribly structured bookend involving that grave in somebody's front lawn. I will not reveal the identity of the person in the grave, which wasn't on my mind as I left the theater anyway. I just wanted to know why someone would bury a dead body there.
Sleeping through her own movie.