The Mighty (1998) Feb 10, 2020 21:17:24 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Feb 10, 2020 21:17:24 GMT -5
The Mighty (1998)
Directed by: Peter Chelsom
Directed by: Peter Chelsom
Kevin (Kieran Culkin) sits on the shoulders of Max (Elden Henson) and knights the two as "Freak the Mighty" in The Mighty.
NOTE: This film was recommended to me by Bob R. for "Steve Pulaski Sees It," a yearly event where I take recommendations from readers.
The Mighty tells the story of two boys who both feel incomplete in some capacity but grow stronger and more fearless when they "join forces," so to speak, and form an unstoppable unit. It's the kind of imaginative little drama you rarely see in contemporary times; the kind of kids movie that doesn't shy away from the cruelty and unfairness of the adult world.
The two boys are Max (Elden Henson) and Kevin (Kieran Culkin, who has never looked more like his younger brother Macaulay). Max is a shy kid, who feels like a giant among mortals as he's hit his growth spurt relatively early. His passive demeanor and hulking physique make him a social pariah, even though you believe he could end the stigma simply by standing up for himself once. "Sometimes, it seems like the whole world has just seen me on America's Most Wanted," he narrates early. Meanwhile, fellow schoolmate Kevin, known as "The Freak" by other students, has Morquio syndrome, which stunts the growth of his bones despite his organs continuing to expand. Time is of the essence for Kevin, who gets around with support crutches, but doesn't let his symptoms get in the way of his imagination.
Their friendship starts off on a rocky note. In gym class one day, a kid lobs a basketball at Kevin, knocking him over, with Max being blamed for the act. Things are initially awkward when Kevin shows up one day to help Max with his reading, but Kevin's passion for King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the material at hand, serves as a comfortable conduit. Kevin believes the principles of Arthurian chivalry should guide the lives of humans, and the two develop a working arrangement where Kevin rides around on Max's shoulders. Together, they knight themselves as "Freak the Mighty," two kids who feel as though they stick out like sore thumbs on their own, but bring righteousness to the forefront when they band together. It helps Kevin has a strong selling point in convincing Max: "You need a brain, I need legs, and the Wizard of Oz doesn't live in south Cincinnati." Fair enough.
On the outskirts of their friendship, trouble looms. Apprehensive of "special schools," Kevin's mother (Sharon Stone) tries desperately to get her son's school to be accommodating to his needs, while Max's grandparents, Grim and Gram (Harry Dean Stanton and Gena Rowlands, respectively), are raising their grandson following the imprisonment of his father (James Gandolfini) for murdering his wife and Max's mother. These elements enter the film like a chilly gust of wind on an otherwise ideal afternoon, as if to remind the boys there lurks an unforgiving world that their amalgamated "Freak the Mighty" unit might not be able to conquer. Nevertheless, they persist.
I tend to squawk a lot when faced with an overly sentimental or heavy-handed film, which is what The Mighty can be at times. Its score is a bit too maudlin, overplaying emotional scenes that would be better left to the natural ebb and flow of the movie, yet I'd be lying if I said it was a consistent bother. The material is made wholesome and honest thanks to Charles Leavitt's script, which paints vivid characters and a compelling backdrop for them in which to function. The worldbuilding of Cincinnati, something I never thought I'd say, is intriguing too. Leavitt layers it as a place where crime and bad things do exist, but the streets are safer when Kevin and Max are together, doing their best to defend themselves and the helpless. It's a great benefit when you have veteran supporting players such as Stone and Stanton, who exist just enough to be meaningful characters but their own motivations don't impede on those of their dependents.
The message of The Mighty is pithy yet heartwarming. We all have weaknesses and we are not perfect, and at Kevin and Max's ages, we tend to feel like we don't belong. Together, however, even if it's just one other friend or confidant, we can be more than the sum of our parts. Our weaknesses can become strengths. I tend to think about my friend group a lot and what they provide me, often a more logical perspective on situations that I sometimes view too emotionally. Beyond that, if we didn't have close friends with whom to share our triumphs and our tribulations, where would we be? Not nearly complete. The Mighty is a lovely film that reminds us all that and more.
Starring: Kieran Culkin, Elden Henson, Sharon Stone, Gena Rowlands, Harry Dean Stanton, and James Gandolfini. Directed by: Peter Chelsom.