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The Mighty Review

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Max is a giant, taciturn, semi-literate oaf who's been held back in junior high for several years. Then his new neighbour, bright Kevin (tiny, disabled and sarcastic) is assigned as his reading tutor. A mutual passion for Arthurian legend impels the boys to embark on a series of "quests", vanquishing wrong-doers. With Max carrying Kevin on his back the two become known as one heroic entity, Freak The Mighty.

★★★★

Although a film about a boy with a terminal disease bonding with a big lummox and pretending they are Knights Of The Round Table sounds suspiciously like "family entertainment", don't be fooled because this is captivating drama.

Max (Henson) is a giant, lumbering oaf who's been held back in junior high for several years. He seems a simpleton and a coward; raised by his grandparents, Gram and Grim (Gina Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton), he's near-illiterate, near-mute and constantly taunted. Then his new neighbour, bright Kevin (Culkin), a tiny, disabled, sarcastic wise guy bullied as "Freak", is assigned as his reading tutor. A mutual passion for Arthurian legend impels the boys to embark on a series of "quests", serio-comic adventures in which friendship and imagination empower the duo to vanquish wrong-doers. The giant carries the crippled boy piggy-back everywhere, Max the legs and Kevin the brain becoming known as one heroic entity, Freak The Mighty.

If this sounds sickly, it isn't, but a funny, uplifting adaptation of an award-winning book. Distinctive British director Chelsom (Hear My Song, Funny Bones) infuses the film with a look of magical realism, so that the boys' perceptions have the style of mythic fantasy adventure. But he keeps the story true to life and grounded in the everyday reality of its working-class Cincinnati setting, through many moods, while disease-of-the-week cliches are dodged with rare sensitivity.

The adult cast get top billing and good roles (Gillian Anderson does a hilariously blowsy turn as a drunken slattern the boys innocently dub The Lady Of Essex). But it's the accomplished, very demanding star performances of Culkin (15) and Henson (20) that most genuinely move and charm in a movie you won't be embarrassed to weep in.

A funny, uplifting adaptation of an award-winning book.

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