"Bittersweet Romantic Whimsy"
What You Need To Know:
The acting is excellent and the direction impeccable, but TUCK EVERLASTING fails to capitalize fully on the potential moral, redemptive elements in its story. Hence, it is not as satisfying artistically or spiritually as it could have been. The movie also contains some pagan worldview elements that require caution
(PaPa, E, B, C, L, V, N, M) Dominant pagan worldview with environmentalist elements, mitigated by some moral elements and Christian funeral that mentions “Lord Jesus Christ” and the Resurrection; two light obscenities and one light profanity; villain holds gun on defenseless woman, excessive force done in self-defense kills one man and two people shot in chest but don’t die; no sex but teenage couple uses underwear as swimsuits and they cuddle at least twice; upper male nudity and woman in old-fashioned underwear; no alcohol use; no smoking; and, kidnapping, greed, violent threats, and moral relativism used to escape villain and break people out of jail.
TUCK EVERLASTING is a bittersweet romantic fantasy set in 1914. Though based on a classic children’s novel published in 1975, it embraces some moral, philosophical elements that make it less than ideal for its primary audience – young impressionable minds.
The story focuses on Winnie Foster, a teenage girl on the cusp of womanhood. Winnie longs to be free from the tight structure of her wealthy family. She gets lost in the woods near her home and happens upon Jesse Tuck, a teenage boy whose mysterious family hides out in nature, free from the prying eyes of civilization. For Jesse and his family have an interesting secret that puts their whole family at risk: they live near a spring of water by an old oak tree that grants immortality to anyone who drinks from it.
Jesse and his older brother, Miles, have just returned from a trip to Paris. They have been followed, however, by a curious man in a yellow suit, who plans to take the family’s secret for himself.
Miles kidnaps Winnie to keep the family secret from being exposed. The Man in the Yellow Suit has already taken an interest in Winnie and her family, however. When he hears that Winnie has disappeared in the woods, he deduces that the Tucks have something to do with her disappearance. The town’s search for Winnie puts the Tucks’ magical secret within his greedy grasp.
TUCK EVERLASTING is a love story between a teenage girl and boy, Winnie and Jessie. It’s also, however, a story about immortality, greed, good and evil, nature, the stages of life, and personal destiny. As such, there are many moral, philosophical and theological issues contained within it.
TUCK EVERLASTING could have strengthened these themes by making a stronger tie to such biblical themes as the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It foregoes that potential redemptive dynamic, however, in favor of a morally ambiguous resolution that will not satisfy the vast Christian audience that has made such recent movies as SIGNS and SPIDER-MAN so successful at the box office.
For example, the movie relies upon pagan metaphors like the Wheel of Time and the Circle of Life, couched within an environmentalist message about protecting sacred nature. A narrator says to introduce the story, “Time is like a wheel turning and the woods are the hub of the wheel.” Also, a person escapes proper justice in the resolution to the story, thus lending a tone of moral relativism to the presentation.
Mitigating these problematic elements are a couple important moral elements.
At one point during the tale, Jesse’s father, Angus, tells Winnie that the immortality which the magical water grants to his family is not all it’s cracked up to be because it has forced them to become isolated from the rest of humanity. “Don’t be afraid of death,” he tells her. “Be afraid of the unlived life.” He encourages Winnie to live her life as she finds it, under the real threat of eventual mortality, and to find a purpose for her life. The purpose she finds is stated explicitly at the end of the story: Winnie becomes a beloved wife and mother. Thus, in the end, TUCK EVERLASTING validates traditional family life. Family life is a value that Winnie receives not only from Angus, but also from his wife, Mae, as well as in an important scene of reconciliation between Winnie and her own mother.
Alexis Bledel and Jonathan Jackson as the two teenage lovers, Winnie and Jessie, do a fine job. Their performances are more believable than the two romantic leads in TITANIC, a movie which TUCK EVERLASTING slightly resembles. The supporting actors are made up of a distinguished array of acting talents from the last 30 years or so, including Sissy Spacek, William Hurt, Ben Kingsley, and Amy Irving. Disney has truly assembled an excellent ensemble here.
Director Jay Russell has also done a fine job of adapting this story to the cinematic realm. Ultimately, however, the movie (and probably the book on which it’s based) would have been helped immensely by abandoning the pagan worldview and adding more redemptive, moral elements. Being so faithful to the book may have undercut the appeal of this movie for the vast Christian audience.
The secular world of today’s children’s literature that is taught in the pagan public schools and promoted by our pagan mass media often presents Christians with a mixed bag. Regrettably, in such a world as that, people are taught to overlook the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the moral, redemptive, psychological, physical and spiritual benefits which that Gospel brings to all people everywhere. It is up to Christians to promote stories that tap into those benefits from Christianity. Jesus Himself taught His disciples with such parables. It is one of the most important ways in which we can follow His example.