In the coast range mountains on the western edge of the Salinas Valley is a ranch where Tom, a lad of about ten, longs for a pony. He lives with his mom, who was born there, her dad, a talkative pioneer who misses the old West, Tom's dad Fred Tiflin, who comes from the city and after years on the ranch doesn't feel at home there, and Billy, their trusted hand, a real cowboy. While Fred has to sort out whether he wants to stay a rancher and come to terms with his son being closer to Billy than to himself, Tom gets a pony and learns directly about responsibility and loss. What lessons can each learn, and are tragedy and hard choices all that life offers? Are laughter and joy anywhere? Written by
Two of the funniest men I ever saw were Bob and Ray. A comedy team that did some of the cleverest word play ever. An example. Bob would say, "You can see the Kimodo Dragon at the Washington Zoo. Ray would look at him and ask, "And if you wanted to see one of these interesting creatures, where might you and your family go." The delivery was slow and drawling. That's what this movie is like. It's a great story. It's about relationships and pain and isolation. It's about a father who just can't relate to his son. Then there's Billy Buck, played by Robert Mitchum. He speaks like this too. There are these pregnant pauses all over the place. You almost want to say, "Hurry up. We're not getting anywhere." The grandfather drones on about his adventures in the Western movement, driving the father crazy. The little boy has about as much charisma as a stump. I used to assign this story to ninth graders. They really like the book. The movie was so anti-climactic after the reading. They were so disappointed, it detracted from the enjoyment of the book. I'm not saying this is the worst movie ever. It could have been truly better with a little better direction and writing.
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