Click here for IMDB's info on The Mighty
Expect to cry. Yup, even you. No, no, maybe you don't THINK you cry in movies, but this one will prove you wrong. The Mighty is a film that sets out to make you cry and does what it came to do. Unfortunately, no one ever taught director Peter Chelsom that manipulation only works until the audience feels you doing it.
This is the story of a 7th grader, who, according to his apt inner monologue, looks like Godzilla. He is a huge kid who has a learning disability and thinks he is stupid. Enter a brilliant crippled kid (played by Kieran Culkin, McCauley's little, still unmarried brother) bent over by his debilitating disease, essentially a brain trapped inside of a dying body. The two kids make a wonderful team of smarts and brawn. They form a sweet, symbiotic bond that is touching, despite its dash of sappiness. They imagine themselves as a chivalrous knight, always questing to prove their worth by helping other people and standing up for themselves. Occasionally we are even treated to the site of a few King Arthur-esque knight mirages amidst the story, set in Cincinnati.
The film was beautifully shot and overall, extremely well-acted. The fanciful, lilting music added a brilliant dimension to the movie's drama. Elden Ratliff (Mighty Ducks, D2 and D3, Radio Flyer) is excellent as Max, the big kid whose convict father haunts him. Culkin is also tremendous as Kevin, the smart, imaginative kid in leg braces. Harry Dean Stanton, Gena Rowlands and Sharon Stone top off the cast. Each delivers a strong supporting performance to the two kids. Gillian Anderson and James Gandolfini play sleazy characters along the fringes of the story.
The movie is touching and completely captivating until Chelsom forgets that tried and true rule: less is more. Once he's got the audience sobbing (and I don't like to relinquish tear duct control to movies) he continues to push with shots from directly above of a grieving boy shaking his fists at the sky, and other bittersweet shots that serve no purpose other than to keep the faucets running.
Though this forced poignancy rubbed me the wrong way, I recommend you see The Mighty simply because it delivers a tight narrative and great performances. Though you may not cry, if you're not touched by this film, your heart is made of steel. And now that I think of it, it's is nice to find a movie that is able to actually affect an audience, even if only with tears.
-- Caitlin Roper