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Hearts in Atlantis
2001 - PG-13 - 101 Mins.
Director: Scott Hicks
Producer: Kerry Heysen, Michael Flynn
Written By: William Goldman
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, David Morse
Review by: David Trier
   
As one of the greatest men ever to don the pretentious prefix of "sir", Anthony Hopkins sets out to redeem himself for all of us who saw Hannibal.

Like all great tv movies, Hearts starts with a bookend of a man remembering his youth. The man, Robert Garfield (David Morse), returns to his hometown after hearing of the death of his childhood friends. Flashback to the early 60s where an 11 year-old Robert (Anton Yelchin) lives with his divorced mother (Hope Davis) who rents a room in their home to a mysterious man named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins). Robert's need for a father figure is quickly met when Brautigan befriends him and proposes paying him a dollar a week to read the paper for him as his eyes are going. This money will hopefully get Robert the bicycle he's always wanted, one his mother, Elizabeth, refuses to pay for. Elizabeth distrusts this creepy old guy Robert's grown attached to, but she lets him look after the boy for a while so she can go on a business trip and get raped by her boss. Meanwhile, Brautigan tells Robert the real reason he hired him which is to look out for the "lowmen", black-suited mystery men looking for him for undisclosed reasons. Robert does this while also sharing those I-remember-when-I-was-a-kid moments with his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully (Will Rothaar). When Brautigan defends Robert and Carol from the local bully, the bully takes his revenge by beating Carol with a baseball bat. If you've noticed, world politics follows similar examples. But anyway, Robert makes up for it by kicking the kid's butt. In the midst of all this, it's revealed that Brautigan holds psychic powers and it may very well be the CIA that wants to get him so as to destroy any evidence that they use tomfoolery in their exploits. Imagine the headlines, "CIA Uses Psychic to Determine Best Way to Test LSD on Kids". Some of these powers rub off on Robert for a bit and help him to do such meaningful things as not lose his money at a carnival card game. In the end, Brautigan is taken away, Robert finally confronts his mother about her being a cold-hearted freak, and they move away. The film ends back in the present where an adult Robert coincidentally meets Carol's daughter.

I liked this movie more in the theater than when I sat down to write this review. Going over the synopsis, I am overcome by the idea that this is all very silly. Ok, here's the good stuff. As always, we can count on Hopkins to deliver an involving performance. The man can be flossing and we'd all go, "Wow, he's interesting." Here is no exception. Anton Yelchin is plenty likeable and the relationship between the two of them is quite touching. The film's main focus seems to be on capturing what it was like to be a kid in the early 60s and although I have no idea if they just made it up, it looked right to me. What works best about the movie is that despite the confusing plot, we want Robert and Brautigan to succeed with whatever it is they want. This brings me to the major problem with the film, which is that not enough time is spent explaining what Brautigan's real problem is. What powers does he have? Why does the kid get them for a bit? Who exactly are the "lowmen" and why can't he think of a better place to hide than in plain view? The "lowmen" also do this weird thing where they put up signs looking for a lost dog named Brautigan. For some reason, Robert's mom knows to call this number when she wasnts to sabotage the man. Something was lost in the edit.

In the end, the kid doesn't retain his magic powers, so I fail to see what was the big deal with him having them in the first place. The previews for this film made it seem as if it were about an old psychic transferring his powers to a young boy so that they aren't lost. This is a great idea for a movie. "Tell me what you see." But, no, this is about something else. A straightforward story about a young boy befriending a mysterious old man would have been sufficient. This psychic mumbo-jumbo could pretty easily have been removed from the script. The bookend format is a clasic sign that someone wanted to take a short story and make it into a full length movie, but it's always nice to see David Morse. I liked Shawshank Redemption and have no problem with King trying to make a name for himself outside of the world of horror. But I have to admit it would have been great to see someone get ganked by an evil clown.

People will inevitable compare this film to Stand By Me which I still say is just about a group of ugly kids that go to see a dead body. I know this is not a popular view. Ultimately, Hearts in Atlantis is worth watching if it shows up on tv, but not something that needs to be paid for. The acting is generally decent, the cinematography is quite nice and selected scenes are very involving. A lot of it is sleepily mediocre, too.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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