The Mighty - * * * 1/2*

The Mighty!

The Mighty is a very good film, saddled with a very perplexing advertising campaign. Based upon Rodman Philbrick’s novel Freak the Mighty, someone somewhere apparently objected to the word ‘Freak’, which has been inexplicably jettisoned. To follow that up, the ads have been an odd hodgepodge of Sharon Stone and a bunch of medieval knights, and while she does appear in a supporting part (as do the knights), this hardly gives a clear idea of what the film is about: friendship, identity, and chivalry.

The Mighty is narrated by Max (Elden Henson), a giant of a kid, who’s in the seventh grade for the third time around. Though bigger and stronger than all the other kids, Max doesn’t think too well, and is constantly the object of ridicule. It doesn’t help matters that his father (James Gandolfini) is imprisoned for murder, leaving Max to stay with his grandparents (Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton).

The new kid next door isn’t much better off. Kevin (Kieran Culkin), is a brilliant boy with Morquio’s Syndrome…his bones have stopped growing, but the rest of him hasn’t. Living alone with his mother (Sharon Stone), Kevin has built a fascinating intellectual world in which to live. But he longs to do the things a normal kid could do.

Though at first Max and Kevin appear to be complete opposites, they’re actually quite complementary. Max has the brawn, and Kevin has the brains. Working together, they make a team more powerful than the sum of its parts. Following the ideals of the legend of King Arthur, the two friends envision themselves as knights bringing chivalry back into an unchivalrous world.

Although this movie shares the theme of childhood friendship with the recent Simon Birch, The Mighty is able to delve for additional meaning while managing to be just as touching.

The largest chunk of the credit has to go to the film’s two leads. Kieran Culkin has the seemingly showier role as Kevin, and, indeed, he manages to express a depth of character that his elder brother Macaulay never did. However, he has the unfortunate benefit of working alongside Elden Henson, who turns in a brilliant portrayal of Max. Elden brings a deep humanity to his role of the slow-witted giant.

Even though the protagonists are kids, one shouldn’t assume that this is strictly a kids movie (the rating is PG-13). Although kids and teens would identify with it (who hasn’t felt like a freak at one point or another), the messages are universal, and the story is fully enjoyable for adults, too.

The film takes a few twists and turns, some surprising, and some not so. However, wherever the film takes you, you’ll be glad to go along for the ride.

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