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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Tuck Everlasting (2002)

"For some, time passes slowly. For others, it doesn't exist."
- narrator (Elizabeth Shue)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: March 11, 2003

Stars: Alexis Bleidel, Jonathan Jackson
Other Stars: Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek, William Hurt, Amy Irving, Scott Bairstow, Victor Garber, Elisabeth Shue
Director: Jay Russell

MPAA Rating: PG for some violence
Run Time: 01h:30m:15s
Release Date: February 25, 2003
UPC: 786936205794
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In 1975, Natalie Babbitt wrote a marvelous children's book entitled Tuck Everlasting, about a ten-year-old girl named Winnie Foster who encounters a family with a very big secret. With this Walt Disney adaptation from director Jay Russell (My Dog Skip) the basic core of Babbitt's story remains the same, but the most significant change is that ten-year-old Winnie has been morphed into a fifteen-year-old, here played by Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel.

The drastic retooling of a main character from such a beloved book might seem like treacherous ground on which to start from, but screenwriter James Hart (Bram Stoker's Dracula, Hook, Contact) seems to know his way around adapting books to the big screen, and the changes here have not seemed to impact the underlying message of Babbitt's story at all.

Bledel's adorably doe-eyed Winnie is the only child of a well-to-do late-1800s family, and she feels emotionally stifled by the restrictions and limitations placed upon her by her overbearing mother (Amy Irving) and stern father (Vincent Garber). Striking out in the woods surrounding her home, Winnie has a chance encounter with the kind and gentle Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson) and his brother, the bitterly angry Miles (Scott Bairstow). When it appears that Jesse is about to spill the aforementioned very big family secret, Miles abducts Winnie and brings her to the family cabin deep in the woods, where she is held captive.

It is here, in between alternating bouts of pouting and falling for free-spirit Jesse, that Winnie meets the kindly Tuck parents, Angus (William Hurt) and Mae (Sissy Spacek), who offer the girl their version of kindly, backwoods hospitality as they struggle with how to resolve the predicament. Furthering the dramatic tension, a long-haired Ben Kingsley shows up in town as the mysterious Man In The Yellow Suit, who may know a thing or two about the Tucks as well.

The big revelation in Tuck Everlasting isn't really spelled out until about 49 minutes into the 90-minute film which, according to my calculations, is more than halfway in. For the sake of common decency, I'll dance around it here, in case you haven't read the book, the back cover or seen the trailer, or if you just like to be mildly surprised. Yet it seems odd to me, when this plot point was telegraphed so loudly in the marketing of the film that it isn't revealed sooner in the James Hart adaptation. Knowing it ahead of time didn't ruin the experience for me, but it did take the wind out of the moment somewhat.

Marketing issues aside, Russell and Hart have adeptly transformed Babbitt's work into a lovely and willowy picture book, one that is noticeably far removed from typical noisy family fare. Still, we do get Bledel and Jackson doing the whole swooning-teenagers-in-love routine, which here means swimming beneath waterfalls, petting fawns and frolicking through deep golden fields at sunset. Even a rare moment like Bledel's percolating sensuality during a late night spontaneous dance (complete with slowly building drumbeats) nicely mixes pure childlike innocence with the implied fires of the blossoming teen romance between Winnie and Jesse.

A lesser man would call the whole thing trite and hokey, but Tuck Everlasting is constructed so well that I easily fell for the sleepy, dreamy pitch and roll of the film; I had the same reaction when I saw Russell's My Dog Skip, which I also thought was just too good to be simply branded a children's movie.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Tuck Everlasting is presented in an absolutely stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Disney , and all of the browbeating the studio has been taking as of late for releasing full-frame-only DVDs may be temporarily forgotten, thanks to this release. The entire film is bathed in rich golden hues, and the source print looks damn near perfect. Colors are strong and well-balanced, and black levels are rock solid, too. There is some haloing, but the depth and clarity of the overall transfer negates that minor imperfection.


Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: I wouldn't have expected the 5.1 Dolby Digital track on such a seemingly quiet, sensitive film like this to be as aggressively mixed as this one. Rear channels get used quite a bit, as does the sub, which rumbles pretty loudly during a big thunderstorm late in the third act. Dialogue is cleanly mixed, though at times is slightly overshadowed by the soothing Scottish-tinged score by William Ross.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Pirates of the Caribbean, George of the Jungle 2, Inspector Gadget 2, The Haunted Mansion, Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World SE, Kim Possible, ABC Family
1 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Jay Russell, Jim Hart, Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Jackson, Scott Bairstow
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Lessons of Tuck
Extras Review: Well, Disney has not skimped on the extras for Tuck Everlasting, and the content is varied enough to appeal to a number of different age groups. First, there are two full-length, scene-specific commentary tracks to be found here, and both feature director Jay Russell.

The first one teams him up with screenwriter James Hart, and this is a strongly constructed and just plain informative track about the trials and tribulations of adapting a novel, its origins, and all of the processes that occur before the first frame of film is shot. The second track is lighter, and matches up Russell with Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Jackson and Scott Bairstow; this is more of the "what was it like to shoot this scene" variety. This one is obviously geared toward younger fans less interested in hearing about the mechanics of making a film versus hearing from the young stars themselves.

Lessons of Tuck is an interesting idea, and works to make the film a little more interactive for the pre-teen crowd who might not care to sit through an entire commentary, and who prefer things more visual. Working much like the seamless branching option, this section has Jonathan Jackson pop up eleven times on-screen during the film to pause the story and ask questions about what just happened on-screen. There are comments from production principals and a small group of "normal" teenagers who offer their opinions, and Jackson presides over it all with a gentle, calm demeanor.

An Interview with Natalie Babbitt (09m:27s) is a soft-focus look at the author's life, and she chit-chats about how her writing career began, and how the story of Tuck Everlasting came to be. The nine minutes flew by for me (hey, I love to hear authors talk), and I would have liked to have heard more from Babbitt.

Rounding things out is a batch of Disney trailers (including previews of Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion), 16 chapters, subtitles (French and Spanish) and English closed-captioning.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Tuck Everlasting is a beautiful-looking family film that does something few movies can, which is provoke thought and conversation afterwards. The film's message is presented simply and sweetly, and even screenwriter James Hart's slight tinkering and tweaking of Natalie Babbitt's classic book can be forgiven.

Highly recommended.


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