Huckleberry Finn Reviews
It doesn't help that a couple of the songs really stink either. the movie gets off to a decent start, and the title song 'Freedom' is actually quite good. so are the songs 'Honey Darling' and the excellent 'Rose in a Bible', but pretty much all the rest are sub par. the Harvey Corman number, 'Royalty', is just plain awful. And so is Corman. it's hard to imagine Harvey Corman as giving such a horrible performance, since he is always so talented and funny, and you think he would be just right for this role, but he's not. he over acts so terribly and the song is so bad, it pretty much sinks the movie at that point, and it never recovers.
As a musical, this film does not work. The numbers are awkwardly placed and spaced, and some of the actors are unsure of their singing altogether. The songs in the companion film Tom Sawyer work better because they are usually sung as a voiceover, serving as an internal dialogue.
While not entirely faithful to the book, captures its essential themes and spirit rather well. There are some technical problems (the lighting always seem to be half in shadow, whether it's night or day!) and its kiddies-friendly tone seems at odds during the Grangerfords/Shepherdsons sequence, wherein we see men being shot and killed right on camera--and it's handled rather lightly.
Another basic problem with this adaptation is that some of the most interesting events in the story take place off-screen. You only hear them described afterwards, which is a very weak storytelling device. The cinematography is good; the acting by Jeff East and others is good, especially the actress playing the Widow Douglas. And Paul Winfield is an excellent choice for the character of "nigger" Jim.
Talented filmmaker J. Lee Thompson stages this musical version of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" with artificial verve, and nothing in it looks quite right or plays at the appropriate tempo. Stolen from his guardians by his own delinquent father, Huckleberry Finn stages his own death and hits the Mississippi River with his friend, Jim the Slave (why the two don't return to the sisters whom Jim works for is never made clear--both he and Huckleberry would certainly benefit from their generosity). Songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman, who also adapted the screenplay, seemed to lose their way musically once their mentor, Walt Disney, died; here, their songs are like leaden chapter stops in the narrative, not that the actors have much musical range. Teen star Jeff East doesn't even have music in his speaking voice, and he crawls through the picture lethargically, talking through his nose as if he had a cold. Paul Winfield fares better as Jim, though this pictorial, phony journey must have seemed quite a comedown after his "Sounder". Cinematographer Laszlo KovŠcs gets some beautiful shots of the raft on the water, but the limp direction and editing makes nearly all of KovŠcs' compositions look poorly framed. The color schemes are gloppy, with day scenes appearing as dusk and vice-versa. Director Thompson, who makes the white folks look like doddering scoundrels and the black folks look like grinning simpletons, can't work up a cohesive pace for the picture, and it jostles about from one poor vignette to the next.
Lovers of Huckleberry Finn might cringe at the liberties taken in this film, particularly at the end. The end that Twain wrote for the book wasn't very strong, with Tom Sawyer returning and making a muck of things. This is not the only version of Huck Finn that tries an alternate ending.
Huckleberry Finn, a rambuctious boy adventurer chafing under the bonds of civilization, escapes his humdrum world and his selfish, plotting father by sailing a raft down the Mississippi River. Accompanying him is Jim, a slave running away from being sold. Together the two strike a bond of friendship that takes them through harrowing events and thrilling adventures.
One of Mark Twain's best-loved stories becomes a screen musical in this family-friendly adaptation. Mischievous Huckleberry Finn (Jeff East) is a 15-year-old boy who has long had a difficult relationship with his often violent father. When Dad tried to kidnap him, Huck decides to run away from home, and heads out of town on a raft. Huck is soon joined by Jim (Paul Winfield), a runaway slave who is no more eager to see his master than Huck is to see his father. As the two friends make their way down the Mississippi, they're faced with a variety of challenges and adventures, including a run-in with a pair of shabby but dignified actors, The King (Harvey Korman) and The Duke (David Wayne). Produced in association with Reader's Digest magazine, which in 1973, scored a box-office hit with a musical version of Twain's Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn featured original songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who also wrote the songs for a handful of Disney hits, including Mary Poppins.