Based on elements from the stories of Mark Twain, this feature-length Claymation fantasy follows the adventures of Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and Huck Finn as they stowaway aboard the interplanetary balloon of Mark Twain. Twain, disgusted with the human race, is intent upon finding Halley's Comet and crashing into it, achieving his "destiny." It's up to Tom, Becky, and Huck to convince him that his judgment is wrong and that he still has much to offer humanity that might make a difference. Their efforts aren't just charitable; if they fail, they will share Twain's fate. Along the way, they use a magical time portal to get a detailed overview of the Twain philosophy, observing the "historical" events that inspired his works.Written by
Doug Ferrar <DAFerrar@ix.netcom.com>
I must have seen The Adventures of Mark Twain for the first time over twelve years ago, and for over a decade it had haunted me... rarely, if ever, rebroadcast, I was left only with vague memory of what I remembered as one of the most vibrant pieces of visual art and storytelling that I was exposed to as a youth. I recently purchased it directly from the studio that released it, and got to return to it for the first time in a long time. Of course, when returning to childhood films, you always run the risk of being disappointed by the film being worse than you recall. Luckily, I was not disappointed at all. The story is of Mark Twain's characters Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher as they stow on board an airship created by Mark Twain himself. Through the course of their journey across the world to meet Haley's comet, we are invited to retellings of Twain stories and meet all sorts of different characters. The humour is intelligent and dry, but not over the heads of children.
Visually, this piece is stunning. There is something vivid and tactile about stop-motion animation that will always appeal to me more than any CGI creation. Will Vinton outdoes himself with this piece. From the grandeur of Twain's airship or the Garden of Eden, to the detail of Twain's parlour/billiard room and the simple, truthful human expressions that the animators manage to create on the characters' faces, the film is impressive from first to last.
What surprised me the most is how this film, which I remembered as a children's or family film, is in fact quite dark. It deals with aspects of life, death, evil, and human nature that one would never expect in a so-called "family" film. But while the outward darkness, and, at times, even morbidity of individual aspects may seem inappropriate for family viewing, it comes from the sane and grounded perspective that Twain himself seems to have been known for. Like in any good storytelling, the dark side of humanity is not spared from the viewer just because of the potentially youthful audiences.
By way of criticism, the film could definitely move at a faster pace. The humour, while clever and dry, as I said, could have been pushed farther. There were many times the film set us up for quite a punchline and then didn't deliver, instead settling for a consistent level of pleasant amusement. And I wish the episodic structure had been more fully taken advantage of, and had been extended into even more stories. But that may just be me wishing the movie was longer than 86 minutes. You can't have too much of a good thing.
I give the storytelling an 8 out of 10, and visuals a 10 of 10. Overall, a 9. There aren't too many of those, as far as I'm concerned.
And even if you didn't like this movie, you gotta admit, it's one of a kind.
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