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Review: This 'Mighty' film will warm your heart

Web posted on: Friday, October 09, 1998 10:04:42 AM

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- Sharon Stone has shed her glamorous image to play a working-class single mom, wearing little to no makeup, in the bittersweet, but inspirational film "The Mighty." This movie also stars screen veterans Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton, and two remarkable young actors, Kieran Culkin and Elden Henson.

"The Mighty," which is based on a novel by Rodman Philbrick, is the kind of film that just screams for an avalanche of adjectives: Touching ... inspirational ... bittersweet ... heart-wrenching ... and funny, just to name a few. Stand back, this is gussy, but here I go: It renews your faith in the human race.

Stone is great in this movie co-produced by her own film company, Chaos Productions. But she takes a willing back seat to the wonderful performances by Culkin and Henson.

For many of us, adolescence was all about fitting in. But if you're a giant kid with size 14 shoes and are being held back in the seventh grade for the second time -- or if you're a tiny kid in leg braces with an Einstein-sized brain -- the chances of fitting in are slim to none. But when the big brain, who has an uncertain future, is perched atop the shoulders of the big guy with a deeply troubled past, the combination is -- well -- mighty.

Together, the two boys -- Kevin Dillon, played to perfection by Culkin, and Max Kane, played equally well by Henson -- take on neighborhood bullies, save damsels in distress, forge a deep and abiding friendship, and prove that the human spirit comes in sizes both large and small.

Done before, but worth reviving

This is not a new concept. Misfits banding together have been seen on the screen again and again, from "Stand By Me" to "My Bodyguard," and if you think real hard there are dozens of other examples. But "The Mighty" takes this well-worn plot device and breathes new life into it, with great writing by screenwriter Charles Leavitt, deft direction from Peter Chelsom, and flat-out great acting on all fronts.

Sixteen-year-old Culkin is a wonderful surprise. His 18-year-old brother Macaulay Culkin had his career sidetracked by family troubles, including a father who was generally considered a pest by most of Hollywood. Macaulay also never had the opportunity to work with a script as rich as "The Mighty."

Paul's Pix: "The Mighty"
Windows Media: 28k or 56k

But Kieran takes full advantage of this meaty role, and he should have a nice career ahead of him -- if he keeps making wise choices like the one he made when he signed on the bottom line to appear in this film.

Henson, who is 21 years old, could also be destined for greater things. He started his career at the age of two as a model for Eileen Ford's agency. By the age of five he was a regular on "As The World Turns." His resumé also includes films such as "Mighty Ducks I," "II" and "III." The word "mighty" in a film's title must be his good luck charm. The whole film depends on believing in the journey Henson's character takes, and he made a believer out of me.

Interweaves King Arthur legend

Inspired by the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and using the magic of imagination, these two boys become a single fearless warrior determined to right all wrongs and make their own way in the world. The legend of King Arthur and the boys' imagination are key elements in making this film work. Every once in a while we see knights in shining armor accompanying the boys on their quest, a whimsical touch that helps to elevate this film above the ordinary.

Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton are marvelous as Max's devoted grandparents, and Stone gives a beautifully understated performance as Kevin's courageous mother. Gillian Anderson also turns in a very un-"X-Files" performance as Meat Loaf's girlfriend. Yes, Meat Loaf. I'm betting you've never pictured them as a couple -- now, have you?

The title song for this film is also worth mentioning. Written by Sting and Trevor Jones, and performed by Sting, this song soars and is perfectly fitting for this heartfelt film.

Every once in a while a movie comes along that just blows you away with its originality, its human spirit, and its ability to engulf you in its sheer magic. "The Mighty" is one of them. If this movie doesn't capture your heart, you may not have one.

"The Mighty" is rated PG-13, with a running time of 107 minutes.

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