Tall Tale (1995)
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The kid in here, "Daniel Hackett," played by Nick Stahl, was a little annoying for awhile, the typical snotty kid they like to show in the movies, but came to his senses by the end and wound up a decent kid who respected the people he was supposed to respect.
Meanwhile, all the characters including bad-guy "J.P. Stiles" (Scott Glenn) were a lot of fun not only to watch but to listen to, with some good dialog.
In all, it was lightweight fun and a good adventure story rolled into one. Patrick Swaze was a hot as "Pecos Bill" and Oliver Platt equally fun as "Paul Bunyan," and who doesn't admire big "John Henry" (Roger Aaron Brown)?
Why this is not available (at least in Region 1) on DVD is a mystery to me. It's just a fun movie - pure escapism for more than just kids.
The film takes place in the American West in 1905. A young boy named Daniel Hacket doesn't believe his father is doing the right thing when he passes up an opportunity to sell the family farm for purely sentimental reasons. He also doesn't believe all the tall tales his father tells him of Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyun and Jonn Henry.
He is later entrusted with the deed to the farm by his father who then gets critically injured.
The villain of this film, Mr. Stiles, won't rest until he has every deed to Paradise Valley, the area where the Daniel lives.
Daniel falls asleep in a boat and is carried off. When he awakes he is rescued by none other than Pecos Bill himself. Daniel is determined to get home to take care of his family. Pecos decides to help him. Along the way they meet Paul Bunyun and John Henry. They also must struggle to avoid Stiles and his men who are hot on their trail.
On the journey, Daniel sees why the land is so important to his father and finds himself fighting for it just as hard.
I find this to be a charming and heart warming film. It must have been fun for the actors to portray those great American legends. I, personally, could not see anyone else in those roles. I would have liked to see a bit more of Calamity Jane.
Here's to the Code!
In 1905, Daniel Hackett (Nick Stahl) lives with his mother and father on the farmlands of Paradise Valley. As the film progresses the audience learns that Daniel is growing sick of his life on the farm and expresses his bitterness to his father, Jonas. Daniel's father tells him repetitive stories of folk heroes, Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry, in whom Daniel no longer believes. Meanwhile, J.P. Stiles (Scott Glen) enters town with his gang of wealthy men and his modern machinery with intent of buying the land in order to develop it. When Jonas stands up to stiles and refuses to sell his land he ends up being shot, but not before he hands the deed to his land to Daniel.
Jonas survives but is badly injured, Daniel meanwhile runs and hides in his boat, where he falls asleep. When he wakes he finds himself in a dried up lake bed in Texas, where two men try to rob and kill him, only to be rescued by legendary cowboy Pecos Bill (Patrick Swayze). The two of them later meet up with famous lumberjack Paul Bunyan and ex-slave John Henry. The team gets into a tough battle with Stiles, whose greediness threatens the strength of the folk tales and the livelihood of the farmers.
The acting by the Stahl, Swayze, and Glen was very impressive. They were able to capture the feel of the early Midwest and made the audience feel as if they were part of the story. The compelling acting brought out the excitement of the folk lures that every child reads when growing up. Gender clearly played a large part in casting actors for the film because men play all of the dominant roles. This can be attributed to the fact that women didn't have a large role outside of the home during this time period and unfortunately there are not many women folk heroes.
The costume design and set design also played large roles in creating a convincing story. The costumes were dead on for what viewers would imagine Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry to look and dress like. The costumes really brought out the feeling that this film was based in the early Midwest and the set was designed perfectly to give the feeling that the audience is involved in a folk story. For example Paul Bunyan's log home was exactly what you would imagine it to be, along with his blue ox, Babe.
I would highly recommend this film, as I have loved it since I was a child. It is a great movie for children and for families, and should be watched by anyone who enjoys adventure films.
a almost virtually unrecognizable Patrick Swayze gives a powerful and memorable performance that i think is one of the best of his career and one of the best Pecos Bill interpretations. all the performances here are well done, but it is Swayze's "Pecos" that stands out.
director Jeremiah Chechik gives the film a elegant look that is unusually refined for family films of this kind. not to mention a effective sense of history. the photography and set design are imaginative and stylized and convey American wild west history with good authenticity. especially notable is the design of Scott Glen's villain's ominous looking train.
the film also amusingly and accurately, conveys these early American legend stories fear of progress and the machine/industrial age, that was such a common theme with stories like 'Paul Bunyan' and 'John Henry'.
so much of this is so well done that you almost hate to quibble about it but i feel it does have a basic flaw. i think the film is probably too refined and intelligent. because of that, somehow they forgot to breathe a little more life into the whole thing. the film feels a bit more cold and detached than a wild western adventure really should. i can't believe i'm saying this, but the film should have been a little more "dumbed down". it could use a little more silliness to it because of it's fanciful subject matter. Walt Disney himself wasn't always worried about seeming anti-intellectual or using common slap stick which is evident from the approach often given earlier Disney live action films.
but i am glad for the intelligent approach here and the film definitely captures the spirit and essence of American frontier legends.
Director Jeremiah S. Chechik brought us "national Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (a classic) and "Benny and Joon" (a cult hit), and then this. Despite a great cast, it just sort of flops around and goes nowhere. The plot really ought to be: kid hangs out with legendary figures, ruins their lives. Why they put up with him is beyond me.
One of the more disappointing things, actually, is how little we get of Calamity Jane. For me, if I had Catherine O'Hara on my payroll, I would find a way to expand her part. But I guess not. I will give them credit for Paul Bunyan, though, as their interpretation is certainly unique.
Apart from in the set-up, that is. A land-hungry baron during the Ol' West wants to buy up the property of nearby farmers. If they refuse to comply, he has his army of goons to do his dirty work for him. Guess what happens to the only farmer to protest this policy... And guess who 'inherits' the deeds to the land so he can go on a 'mystical quest' with them, to hide from the baddies. That's right... His 12 year old son.
En route, he befriends great figures of American legend... Such as Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and John Henry. Nope, I haven't heard of any them either... But then again, I am merely an uneducated Brit. Together, they encounter bandits, get lost in a desert and arrested by Calamity Jane. Ever get the feeling some writers pick out random events from a hat, rather than bother with a concise story?
As the music reaches a crescendo constantly (but fails to inspire) and the evil dudes chew the scenery (but fail to intimidate), you wonder what this is all working towards. Well, having reached a dead end with their shaggy dog story of a screenplay, the people behind this mess pull the old 'IT WAS ALL A DREAM' cliché just before the credits roll... And then, fail to even follow through on that miserable old plot device.
So, in a final confrontation that even defies the pathetic logic set up by the makers, you wonder: Just what is the moral here?
It's a good thing to risk your life for a farm, which is probably going to kill you through stress and overwork anyway?
Fictional figures from history will save your bacon when all else fails (I'm thinking Bill & Ted did that one better)?
Or maybe, when you're on a roll career-wise it's best to choose your roles more carefully... Because no matter how far up the hill you are, you can always come tumbling down? (Not mentioning any names... *Swayz..* AHEM... Bad cough I've got there)...
Yeah, let's go with that one. 4/10
Where... do... I... begin...???? This is my favourite Disney film of all-time!
I'm a mixed foreigner from Japan, and I feel like one of the PRIVILEGED people who got to see this movie! It's an educational film for those studying American Tall Tales.
This is a Disney Drama Classic!! It has many big Hollywood names in it! Nick Stahl, Patrick Swayze, Oliver Platt, Scott Glenn, Stephen Lang, etc... why isn't this film more popular!??? They ALL play such memorable & much better roles than in the overrated & nonsensical movies they're mostly known for. I was really hoping for Doug Walker to review this film during his last "Disneycember" (yeah I know)
Great family movie, with a great story, and good morales, too! I actually learned a lot from this film. Great father-son story-arc in this, it could really likely make son's bonds with their father's stronger! ;)
And in my book, it seems quite Biblical too, with the facts that 3 legendary characters, Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, & John Henry are sent to help this boy, Daniel Hackett; they're somewhat like 3 GUARDIAN ANGELS (since the Number "3" appears quite a lot in the Bible). Also, Randy Edelman's score for the film is *especially* underrated! He deserves an Oscar nomination for SOMETHING!
A *MUST SEE*!!!
PS: Quite ironic too that the director also directed the movie that's universally considered bad, "The Avengers" (1998)
"Tall Tale" is a competent, unabashed re-envisioning of "The Wizard of Oz" (1939).
But, they went down the wrong yellow brick road by retrofitting it to the American West of 1905 - with folk heroes "Pecos Bill" (standing in for the Scarecrow), "Paul Bunyan" (the Cowardly Lion), and "John Henry" (the Tin Man) made more ordinary than they were even in the old adventures told before the arrival of radio, television, and motion pictures. No wizard, no munchkins. Not surprisingly, viewers in 1995 were interested in more modernized heroics. Most exciting scene has young Nick Stahl (as Daniel) standing up to a train driven by Scott Glenn (The Wicked Warlock of the West). Don't surrender, Daniel!
***** Tall Tale (3/24/95) Jeremiah S. Chechik ~ Nick Stahl, Patrick Swayze, Oliver Platt, Roger Aaron Brown
There are so many great parts to it, that it's a shame that some of the editing and a few character blunders are handled so badly.
The John Henry competition is pretty much thrown away, just because of some bad editing.
The bad guy is an out-of-place cartoon, supposedly in the "real world" but seems like a fugitive from THE WILD, WILD WEST. He is pitted against the well-drawn characters of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry and Calamity Jane, all of whom start out as cartoons, then are cleverly nuanced. I could have used more Catherine O'Hara.
Speaking of which, William H. Macy is pretty much wasted too.
I won't spoil the ending, but I think they knew that they DID have a great ending that could survive lots of mis-steps. So don't tune out before the end.
You see, there's this guy Stiles who wants to buy up all the land in a community. So he holds a town meeting promising to give people vast sums of money in return for their land. Everyone is positively giddy about it, until this guy Jonas stands up and makes a touching speech about how the land is their heritage and it would be a sin to sell. Everyone gets on his case about it, and he concludes with, "Well, I ain't selling." Then what happens? Do they discuss it further? Does Stiles resume the meeting? No! Everyone just gets up and LEAVES! The meeting isn't even adjourned; they all just... walk out of the building! Did they forget what they were doing? Do they have Attention Deficit Disorder? Someone please explain this scene to me.
Now, if I remember correctly, Stiles is so mad about Jonas ruining his meeting that he does the logical thing and... shoots Jonas. At the last minute, Jonas's son Daniel gets ahold of the deed to their land and runs away with it, because Stiles will stop at nothing to snatch it right out of his hands (a tried-and-true legal tactic). Daniel runs away and falls asleep in a boat. Then he dreams about being in the Old West with Pecos Bill. Then he wakes up, and Stiles tries to run him over with a train. Suddenly all the townspeople are on his side and he gets to keep the deed. It's all very confusing.
What a dumb movie. 2/10 stars.
The cool kids sat in the balcony, and it was just plain survival of the fittest to the front rows by the screen. If even two of your friends survived the mêlée to the front row with you it was a miracle. Typically when your parents arrived to ask you how the movie was, someone in your party was sure to say "so and so, got to sit in the front row!"
America in its innocence (good or bad) dropped their children off for the double feature that usually ran on Saturday afternoon. With evidence that anarchy could indeed survive in places, the roar of the room continued all the way through the cartoon that preceded the movie (typically our old pal Jimney Cricket singing "I'm no fool, no siree").
Then, as the first feature appeared the music would thunder into the room, tinker-bell would wave her wand and color would overwhelm your senses. The room became silent as everyone prepared. This was the magic and the miracle of Disney. For the next few hours you would be transported to a place where people sang instead of spoke, where villains were easy to spot and the good guy was small and scared and helpless, just like you.
That said, what a delight it was to stumble upon Disney's Tall Tale this afternoon. Just 43 year old me in a recliner, laptop pushed aside and housework not going anywhere until movies end.
I only half watched until the father began retelling the tales to his son. I thought HEY, I remember those characters! Of course Swayze had me hook line and sinker within 5 minutes on screen. So ruggedly handsome and confident, I knew I wasn't going anywhere. *S
Being from Minnesota, I felt actual anticipation when I realized they were going to introduce us to Paul Bunyan! I envisioned some buff blonde with a dazzling smile, some more greedy eye candy to accompany Patrick, I suppose. As the movie progressed, I understood why Paul's character had to portray more of a gruff Uncle. You know, the one that messes up your hair instead of hugs you when he sees you. Something Platt does brilliantly with very little dialog. The sunglasses added to the costume in the desert scene finally made him Paul Bunyan to me.
Speaking of eye candy, that smile on Brown had to be the deciding factor that he was cast as John Henry. He appeared illuminated with joy. He introduces the subplot to the theme "You don't know unless you try". And drives home the point by losing the contest despite his best efforts with a winning smile and the decision to try again later.
Can't quite tell if Calamity Jane was chopped up after the fact or if she was set to make a token appearance from the start. The Don't mess with Texas bit was hilarious, but I think it cost us spending time hearing Jane's story. In fact I think it would've been funnier to have that same guy get a beating from HER for being inappropriate.
In closing, I don't like someone's Wizard of Oz analogy at all. The trio in that movie are missing key elements that will help them defeat their enemies and arrive safely home. No, our hero's here possess the key elements that represent determination, tenacity and ingenuity all in allegiance with "the code" which is integrity.
Finally, the true hero here is our own Walt Disney. Who continues to leave his signature after he's long gone. Always reminding us that if we use our imagination life can be bigger, bolder and more beautiful, that sometimes it's better to sing instead of speak and he'll keep that place for us where the good guys always win.
I'd love to see this piece redone big budget for the big screen!