Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – T. S. Spivet (Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 10.06.2014 3

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – T. S. Spivet (Movie Review)

T. S. Spivet (UK Rating: 12A)

Long film titles are almost as fashionable as 3D at the moment: think X-Men: Days of Future Past and Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets. It looked like T. S. Spivet was going to follow the trend as well, as its original name was The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet. Perhaps that was asking too much of audiences, though, because now it simply uses the name of the main character as its title. With the movie set for UK cinemas on 13th June, Lights, Camera, Action! gives it the review treatment.
Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – T. S. Spivet (Movie Review)

T. S. (Kyle Catlett) is a ten-year-old who lives on a remote ranch in Montana with his scientist mother, Dr. Clare (Helena Bonham Carter), cowboy father (Callum Keith Rennie), older sister, and twin brother. His talent for science is going unnoticed at school, so he sends a design for invention to the Smithsonian Institute and wins the top prize. His journey to collect the award takes him across half the country, but what the Institute does not realise is that he a young boy and that he has a very dark secret.

This is one of those rare instances where 3D is really allowed to come into its own and contribute to a film instead of being simply bolted on. The movie is a feast for the eyes, bringing to life the boy's inventions and theories with great 3D graphics that float around the screen. Sometimes they go inside other character's heads - especially T. S.'s big sister's - giving the audience a better understanding of what they are thinking. The film's three sections are introduced with wonderful pop-up book graphics, echoed in the 3D effects, which are based on his mother's diary. T. S. takes it with him on his journey to Washington and discovers it's not only full of photographs, drawings, handprints and notes, but it also explains a lot to the boy about his mother, her feelings and her relationship with his father.

It isn't just the film's vision that makes it a joy to watch, however, as director Jean-Pierre Jeunet - who directed Amelie some thirteen years ago - has managed to re-create some of that film's captivating spirit, but this time sets it in something closer to a family film. A lot of that spirit is created by the gentle, and often wry, humour threading through the film. Most of it comes from the quirky characters T. S. meets on his travels, but his moments of resourcefulness in avoiding the railway police are equally entertaining. His disguise as a promotional cardboard cut-out in a motorhome is deliciously cheeky.

That quirkiness, which is almost reminiscent of Wes Anderson, isn't just confined to some of the characters. T. S.'s home life is mildly eccentric. For instance, none of the family has a mobile phone - there's no reception - so the only phone is on the wall in the farmhouse. Also, his father retreats to a 'den' to watch classic westerns on an old TV among his collection of stuffed animals, and his mother, despite her abilities as a scientist, is a terrible cook with an extraordinary knack for setting toasters on fire. It is a charming time warp.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! – T. S. Spivet (Movie Review)

Jeunet gets good performances from his cast, with Kyle Catlett making an impressive debut as T. S., while Helena Bonham Carter is surprisingly low-key as his mother, but is all the better for it. As the under-secretary at The Smithsonian, Judy Davis laps up the film's showiest part, sporting a hair style that gives her more than a passing resemblance to Anna Wintour!

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
T. S. Spivet is pure magic - funny, touching, imaginative and quirky. It takes a seemingly straightforward picaresque story and turns it into something genuinely special. It's an object lesson to directors that 3D is not just the latest addition to their bag of tricks; it really can lift a film out of the ordinary. All it takes is imagination...

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Darkflame (guest) 10.06.2014#1

"however, as director Jean-Pierre Jeunet - who directedAmelie some thirteen years ago "


My sentiments exactly! I wasn't sure what to think about this, but now my interest is piqued Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

As a follow-up to my last comment, I should note I did watch this recently, and it's definitely got an Amelie air to it at many times. I honestly wasn't sure what to really expect, despite the review, but what was there was pretty captivating - and moving - all the way to the credits.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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