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Young Tom Long is forced to stay with his kindly Aunt and Uncle while his brother recovers from a bout of the measles. At their flat, he is disappointed to find there is no garden to play in; but his disappointment turns to wonder when he discovers a magical garden which only appears at night when an old grandfather clock strikes thirteen. His nightly excursions to this beautiful garden become even more interesting when he realises that the people he meets cannot see him - except one young girl named Hattie. Written by
"Blooming Heck" lisps hapless lead Anthony Way halfway through this flat, poorly acted, poorly directed mess of a film. That's my review in a nutshell if you want to stop reading now. Yep, this isn't going to be pretty, "Garden" fans. What's that? This film has no fans?
Things get off to a bad start the moment (former choirboy, you've been warned...) Way first comes loping and blinking into focus. Based on the book, I'd sort of envisioned the titular Tom as a likable, down to earth sort of boy that most kids could vaguely identify with. As opposed to an awkward, gurning,public school irritant with zero charisma and a terrible hair cut.
Because make no mistake, whatever qualities this film possesses (some nice photography and...er), this is car-crash cinema, utterly depth-charged by a central performance so staggeringly poor you'll be agreeing with Elvis (and 78% of all Americans, apparently) that shooting your TV screen with a high-calibre handgun is a a Good Thing. There are scenes in this film where poor Anthony can barely get his words out in the right order, let alone with any semblance of believability. Its as if the director (I use the term loosely)just thought "Sod it, I can't be bothered to re-shoot this idiot, he's not going to get any better..."
But the cross-fade addicted "director" doesn't help himself by fumbling key moments and allowing ham-fisted editing into his final cut. Witness the moment when young Tom comes in from the garden and, blank-faced as ever, drops out of view as the picture quickly fades to black. Has he died? Has he fainted? (probably - he certainly seems the type). What are we supposed to make of this moment? Does anyone making this tosh actually care?
The poor lad is so utterly at sea it must be catching because, whoops, his co-star (as Hattie) is also a total plank. So folks, here's a film centering on two kids and neither of them can act in any way shape or form that convinces. What else is there to rescue this repugnant, BAFTA-courting mess?
How about the music! Ahh the "score"...
You know that saying that the best incidental film music is the unobtrusive variety you don't notice? Well, it's not true, because it it was it would have meant no careers for John Williams, John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith and most of the other great composers. But it still rings true when you have to endure the by-numbers, twee, jingle-jangle hack job of a score that curses this movie's entire running time, without let-up. My poor old teeth are still recovering from the permanent edge this soul-destroyingly trite aural holocaust put them on. This is officially the worst film music of all time, no question, and I've sat through a number of Hans Zimmer/Michael Bay collaborations so I knows da territory folks.
My son is 9 years old and isn't a cynical culture assassin like his Dad; he enjoyed the book and wanted to see this film to see how it came over on screen. At the 10 minute point he turned to me un-prompted and used a colourful adjective (that rhymes with "ducking pit"; I blame the parents) to critique what he was seeing. On this occasion I'll let him off - after all, I've always impressed upon him the importance of telling the truth.
Still, the garden's got hedges shaped like squirrels.
2/10 (for the topiary)
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