Mark Twain, your Hollywood option is about to be dropped.
Earlier this year, Disney released the unwatchable “A Kid in King Arthur’s Court,” with a slangy skateboarder in place of your crafty Connecticut Yankee. And now they’ve made a toothless, fast-food “Tom and Huck,” which is to movies as Cliff’s Notes is to novels.
Although well-intentioned, this adaptation of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is broken down into bite-sized, pre-digested nuggets. Nothing to chew.
The film stars Jonathan Taylor Thomas (of TV’s “Home Improvement,” a Disney production) and Brad Renfro (of the film version of “The Client”) as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. These river rats of the Mississippi’s steamboat era look astonishingly like mall rats setting out for a Pearl Jam concert.
You can’t fault Disney for cashing in on the popularity of Taylor Thomas, one of its most congenial stars.
And you can’t blame Taylor Thomas, he’s under contract to Disney. But you are very sorry to see Renfro, so urgent in “The Client,” striking poses that amount to an audition for the cover of Tiger Beat.
Yes, the film contains all the novel’s high points. Tom seduces the neighbor kids into whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence for him. Tom and Huck, believed drowned, eavesdrop on their own funeral.
The young rascals witness Injun Joe’s murder of the town doctor. Tom and Becky Thatcher get lost in the caves where Injun Joe stalks them.
But it’s like watching NFL highlights without having seen the game. How much higher the highlights are when you’ve endured the low points.
In its relentless effort to entertain, this movie eliminates the low points, which make its climaxes seem unearned.
If the film often has the jokey rhythms more befitting, say, “Tom and Huck’s Excellent Adventure,” this may be because director Peter Hewitt’s prior credit is “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.”
Party on, Tom and Huck.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Tom and Huck” Location: North Division cinemas Credits: Directed by Peter Hewitt; starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro Running time: 1:35 Rating: PG