Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Alabama Moon" with John Goodman and J.D. Evermore with Jim Bennett and Uriah Shelton (2009)

This may be the shortest, yet greatest, role ever undertaken by John Goodman. He is not the star. But he is the force behind this wonderful movie about a boy, Moon, played by Jim Bennett, who lives in the woods with his father, whom he calls "Paps". They have lived in the woods, just as the early settlers did, taking what they need from the land as they need it for as long as Moon can remember. They live in a hole in the ground.

"Paps", played by J.D. Evermore, is certain that "the law" is after him. No reason is ever given to the boy, who simply accepts what his father has told him to be true. His mother passed away some years earlier, and Moon does not really recall her. His only link to her is an old snapshot of her taken when he was very small, just before she died. His father has taught him to write "smoke letters", which he claims, when burned, can be received by the deceased.

When "Paps" is injured in an accident and dies, Moon finds himself alone. At the age of 12 he buries his father and continues to live in their hole. His father has taught him all the survival skills he needs; he can trap, hunt, cook and make camp wherever he finds himself. He even knows about herbs and their medicinal properties. In short, his father has taught him everything which he needs to know in order to survive outside of "civilization" except for one thing; being alone. His father's last instructions were for Moon to head towards the northwest, Montana, or even Alaska, where he felt the boy could grow up alone and unbothered.

When Moon ventures out of the woods to make good on his plan, he encounters a local deputy, Constable Sanders, played by Clint Howard, who is an evil version of Barney Fife. The Constable remands Moon to a youth facility, where the boy proceeds to lead a mass breakout. Although most of the boys return on their own, Moon, along with Hal, played by Gabriel Basso, and the sickly Kit, played by Uriah Shelton, make good on their plans to hole up in the woods until spring, when they will make their way to Alaska.

When Constable Sanders pursues the boys, he proves unequal to the task, losing them several times. Hal breaks away, heading to his father's trailer alone, while Kit and Moon remain in the woods. When Kit takes ill from the weather, Moon is forced to leave him by the side of the road, waiting with him until someone stops to help. He then takes off again.

By this time John Goodman has made his appearance as the mysterious, but good Mr. Wellington, a local attorney, who seems only to be interested in helping the boy. And that's as far as I will take you on this fantastic journey which will pull you in every direction as you watch the story unfold. This is one of the best "coming of age" films I have ever seen.

The superb acting of all three boys, alongside veteran actors John Goodman and J.D. Evermore, make this a film very well worth watching. With an excellent screenplay by James Whittaker, from the novel by Watt Key, this movie is directed with true eloquence by Tim McCanlies.

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