By Brandon L. Summers
Moon looks around the orphanage, as Mr. Gene goes to issue him a pair of white low cut chucks.
Young Moon Blake (Jimmy Bennett) is being raised to survive in the woods by his beloved Pap (J.D. Evermore). When Pap lost his wife, he took it bad and took to living in the woods. He raised his son to track game, set traps, build shelter, etc. Now, the real world is catching up to them. A hunting lodge is being built nearby. That’s enough for Pap, who gets irritable and distant, and decides to take Moon to Alaska. On the way, though, he slips in a river and breaks his leg. He refuses to go to a hospital, though, and dies. Moon buries his father, and writes letters to him, which he burns, so his father can read the smoke.
Moon is still in culture shock as he contemplates his future.
Moon’s under the impression that the law is after him. (Bennett had the law after him when he played young James Kirk in Star Trek.) Walking along, he’s discovered by kindly Mr. Wellington (John Goodman) and pursued relentlessly by Constable Sanders (Clint Howard). Sanders, who regards Moon as a wild child, takes him to a juvenile facility, given a pair of white chucks, and put under the care of Mr. Gene (Michael P. Sullivan, doing a Strother Martin impression). Moon makes fast friends with sickly Kit (Uriah Shelton) and bully Hal (Gabriel Basso), and notices girl Rachael (Elizabeth Jackson).
Kit wants to make friends with Moon.
After one night and a nice haircut, Moon decides to break out. He recruits Hal and Kit is already game. That night, they make a bridge from a shed and climb over the barb wire fence. But, Moon decides to go back for all the other kids. The whole group sneaks out under a full moon, taking a bus to the nearby state park. Hal drives. The kids think it’s fun, but that’s all they wanted. They stay behind to get picked up later. In the woods, Moon shows his new friends how to survive. Sanders comes looking for them, and they acquire his adorable old bloodhound. Later, Hal leaves to go back to his father, who is unfit to care for him, taking the doggy with him. Moon and Kit have a great time, and humiliate Sanders who is lost in the woods. Moon sneaks up on him, takes his gun, tosses it in the lake and lures the constable into a poison oak lined trap. It’s all fun, until Kit’s illness catches up with him. Moon drags his little buddy to the road, where he’s picked up by a kindly old man and taken to the hospital.
Out in the wilderness, Kit helps gather wood.
Moon becomes a popular figure. The news calls him Alabama Moon, the wild child who saved his little friend, attempted to murder the constable and ate his dog. (Sanders is a liar.) Moon is picked up by Hal, and they spend time together. He wants to see Kit, so he visits the hospital where he’s caught by Sanders. Sanders takes the boy back to the woods, where he escapes near Wellington’s place. Wellington takes Moon in, and agrees to help the boy in court. After two days in jail, Moon goes to court against Sanders. Sanders is proven to be a corrupt liar, and Moon is relinquished to his discovered relatives. Ah, Wellington. Uncle Mike (Mark Adam) takes Moon to live with his family in Mobile, where the boy learns to let go and live in the modern world.
Without his medicine, and continually exposed to the elements, Kit’s condition starts to deteriorate.
Alabama Moon is a fine light drama for families, especially Christian families. It just lacks a certain authenticity and conviction. The film was clearly made in comfortable public park areas. Their life doesn’t look hard. The young actors give the same exact performance, big and loud. Bennett in particular seems so big eyed and hopeful that it’s hard to believe him in this role. In fact, they all seem like they’re unburdened by the realities their characters have to face. The court scene was rushed, underwritten and transparent. I hated it. And the ending went on too long. It was enough for him that he found a new family. It didn’t need an extra five minutes of them before concluding. Clint Howard makes everything seem more comedic than it actually is, making the tone a little confused. But we all like John Goodman. And Tim McCanlies directed Secondhand Lions and wrote The Iron Giant. He knows how to write films about kids growing up while on an adventure. So it’s not a perfect film, but it is a wholesome one that’s perfectly pleasant and otherwise well made. I just wish it were more daring, more real.
Moon awaits the court hearing on his future in a jail cell.
Hal crouches in pain after Moon punches him in the crotch.
Moon first meets Hal. Hal provokes Moon, tries to punch him, but Moon ducks forward and punches his opponent in the genitals. We get a nice shot of his chucks as Hal writhes in pain on the floor.
Moon talks with Rachael after getting his haircut.
Later, Moon is getting a haircut, but there’s no twist or punchline. It turns out nicely. Rachael even says so. While they’re talking, we get a nice shot of his chucks.
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