Great entertainment: comic-book flavor with impressive cinematography and top-notch acting
Delightfully entertaining Canadian fare from Robert Goudreau Productions (Montréal) with an often comic-book character -- yet with subtle symbolic overtones which lend more interest for children, teens and possibly adults.
A boy (Patrick Thomas, most recently seen as "Frank" in another Canadian work, "Believe", with Rick Mabe) flees with an employee (Christopher Heyerdahl -- also in "Believe" as Thad Stiles) from an underworld figure (veteran John Heard) who threatens to destroy the family business. Susan Almglen plays the boy's mother Jennifer in a basically non-essential role, and Victor Knight provides comic relief in the role of "Grandpa".
Altho Heard is certainly the most famous of the four principle actors, he has a minor part, and as the alternate, USA English title "Fish Out of Water" suggests, Thomas and Heyerdahl carry the film as "Chris Matherson" and "Bobby Fish" (or, as a child in the circus, "Roberto" [Simon Delguste]). The growing and moving relationship between the outgoing, confident, capable young Chris and the contrastingly timid and guilt-ridden Fish contain the meat of the film, overlaid on the conflict supplied by Heard, the criminal.
As "Fish", Heyerdahl shows remarkable versatility playing a character nothing like he has played before and is so distinct from his role in "Believe" that one would never consider that he is the same actor. His demeanor, his looks, his gait and body language, all are geared to the unique character of "Fish" and none other, creating an identifiable and sympathetic persona which immediately draws the viewer into the film and makes it suddenly special. His role is key, since it supplies the basis of the metaphorical, "fish-out-of-water" aspect of the film which tends to make it more than just another kidflick.
As for Director Geoffrey Edwards ("Too Good to be True" and who worked closely with Blake Edwards (a relative?) as writer and actor in several of the Pink Panther movies), his real success in this film was the selection of Patrick Thomas, a surprisingly accomplished young actor capable of unsuspected complexity, to play the part of the star of the screenplay, approximately thirteen-year-old "Chris". Thomas is a natural, and his expressive, engaging character-creation compares competently with that of the veterans like Heyerdahl and Heard. Even the most difficult, implausible lines are rendered evenly and believably (remember this is a comic-book movie). His imperturbability in the midst of the most demanding physical and expressive scenes, as well as his natural and easy good looks, will likely carry him to significant career in the future. He carries off all emotions with equal ease, ranging from genuine affection to genuine hysteria. Centering a film on a young actor is always a chancy enterprise at best, but this bet paid off royally.
In the final analysis it must be said that the overall dramatic substance of the movie will not be satisfying to adults looking for a Hitchcockian plot, but the cinematography never fails to please, and the pacing maintains interest almost without exception. Remember that this film is a *comic book* -- plus much more -- and you will definitely go for it.
All in all, a dependably entertaining film featuring veteran actors and a surprisingly talented young star.
Memorable line: "Eurotrash????"
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