Alabama Moon ...

Alabama Moon (2009)

Alabama Moon Poster“Just before Pap died, he told me that I’d be fine as long as I never depended on anybody but myself.”

Having read the opening quote of this review, you may think that you already know the kind of film this review is going to be about. But I would suggest that you read through the entire review, as everything is not always as it seems.

Moon Blake (Jimmy Bennett) is an eleven-year-old boy who lives with his father in the deep forests of a national park in Alabama. They live in isolation, as the father is obsessed with the idea that the government wants to control them and their lives. These days, this doesn’t sound like such a ridiculous idea, when one thinks of the extremes to which some governments are willing to go to establish various surveillance mechanisms and techniques aimed at increasing their power over the people under their jurisdiction.

One unfortunate day, Moon’s dad breaks his leg (in what probably is the most dramatic scene of the film) and dies from the infection a few days after.  Left by himself, Moon decides to follow his father’s instructions and head to Alaska (or some other rural state) in the hope of finding other people who live in the wilderness to avoid the government. Unlike the book by the same name, written by Watt Key, the film leaves a lot to be desired in the portrayal of the forest, the wilderness and extreme isolation in which Moon and his dad spend their days.

During the first fifteen minutes, the film manages to build a tension and a real interest in its viewers with an intriguing story, touching scenes, and unanswered questions (such as why Moon’s dad chose that way of living and will his son be able to manage on his own). However, instead of the high quality survivalist drama I was prepared for, the film transforms into a rather naive adventurer’s tale filled with humor and moral lessons such as the importance of friendship …etc.

A local policeman captures Moon, thus proving in his own eyes that the “law is indeed after him”. The boy ends up sent to Pinson, a boys home where he is to remain as the “property of the state” until he becomes eighteen years of age. In Pinson, Moon meets his first ever friends – Hal (Gabriel Basso), a bully who he first has to fight to prove himself worthy of acceptance, and Kit (Uriah Shelton), a sickly boy fascinated by the adventurous aura surrounding Moon. Together they devise a plan and manage to escape the boys home, only to find themselves on the run and chased by the police.

Uriah Shelton,Jimmy Bennett and Gabriel Basso in Alabama Moon

Through the film is enjoyable and will appeal to a younger audience because of its adventurous spirit, the genre transition from drama to adventure is not a good one.  I actually even felt cheated when the wonderful and powerful drama I thought the film would be, transformed into a “Disney–like” adventure film. If the film stuck to one genre, it would have done well as both a drama and an adventure. But having mixed the two genres, I’m glad the coming of age subplot at least remained constant to provide some measure of remedy for my disappointment.

Jimmy Bennett as MoonThe story is told from the point of view of its main character, Moon Blake.  Jimmy Bennett did a decent job as Moon, though I would agree with some reviewers on IMDb who pointed out that, if one wants to get a real sense of the talent of this young actor, they would be better off watching the 2008 drama Trucker, in which Jimmy Bennett delivers a truly powerful performance. The most impressive acting in Alabama Moon is carried out by another young actor, Uriah Shelton, in the role of Moon’s friend Kit.  In fact, one could probably justify watching the film just on the basis of Uriah’s natural performance alone.

Even though the genre change disappointed me, I ended up enjoying the film and don’t hesitate to recommend it to you. And now that you’ve read this review, you are unlikely to be misled by the first fifteen minutes of the film and will take it just as an enjoyable adventure with coming of age elements and humor.

2starsFilm title  : Alabama Moon
Release year: 2009, Alabama Moon Entertainment, Faulkner Productions, Faulkner-McLean Entertainment
Director: Tim McCanlies
Cast: Jimmy Bennett, Uriah Shelton, Gabriel Basso, John Goodman, Billy Unger, Clint Howard, Sean Michael Cunningham and others

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I for one really enjoyed this movie but I have to agree that the slapstick stupid adult characters that were running alongside what could have been a very impacting drama was a spoiler for me. This young actors deserved more as there were moments when I had to hold back the tears especially in the scene at the end when he was talking about missing his young friend. I would love to see a remake of this story and make it the drama that it deserved to be that could equal the same impact I felt with “The Cure”. That too had a few comical moments but not silly. It could be that Hollywood wanted to make a kid safe movie here and once again thought they needed to add this comic relief. I for one was too relieved. I wanted to feel a part of what our young lead characters were really feeling. But every time I would get caught up in the film the adult characters would spoil it. It was nice to see one adult actor carry out his role as a loving, caring individual however! Overall my hat is off to the youngsters who carried out their roles so professionally! As for the directors, playwrights and producers….Please lets stay to one genre at a time and quit ruining these could be award winning dramas!

  2. Thanks for the review!

    I watched the film too not long ago and i must say that i quite liked it and since i have not read the book i had nothing to compare it with. The movie was good, at least when you cant compare it with the book. It was however not a masterpiece and had it’s flaws.

    You are also right that it was quite disney-like at times and sometimes it’s good and sometimes bad.

    • I am not anti-Disney – just hate to see a potentially excellent story getting the ” cotton candy ” touch . It is often the case with US based productions , even if they as it is the case with Alabama moon are independent ones.

    • Yes, i agree. That cotton candy touch can really destroy movies sometimes. And since you read the book(?) i understand that you expected something completely different and got a bit dissapointed. I think i would be just as disappointed if i would have read the book before watching the movie.

    • Actually I am listening to the audio book ( its a bit over 8 hours ). However I usually try to distance myself from the book and the film as one is bound to prefer the book in almost 90 % of the cases. My expectations about the film were created by its first 15 minutes and real powerful scene in the river or the touching one in which the father of Moon let him know that he is going to die …etc. The film reminded me a bit about The Cure ( which is a better one to me ) and another one I recently reviewed Ulvepigen Tinke. Also in some of the first scenes Moon reminded me of Huckleberry Finn for some reason. Yet at the end I enjoyed it and discovered a new actor * to me * – Uriah Shelton whose carrier I am going to be following from now on – as I think he has the potential to become the next big talent out there such as Haley was or Baret Oliver.

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