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Sidewalk Review: Alabama Moon

October 21, 2009


Alabama Moon had its world premiere at the Sidewalk Film Festival three weeks ago and will screen this week at the Austin Film Festival. The film stars Jimmy Bennett as Moon, a boy raised in the wild who must transition into surviving in a boy home after the death of his father (former Oxonian J.D. Evermore).

Set in Alabama but actually filmed in Louisiana, the film is based on Watt Key’s children’s novel. Key also penned the script with Tim McCanlies as director.

After Moon is placed in the boy’s home, he befriends the other young boys but quickly finds a way to escape. Having never existed in modern surroundings, Moon is fascinated by things such as a shower and table manners, but never feels he belongs. Bennett provides a stand out performance as the wild child and while already a versatile young actor having starred in “Shorts” and roles in numerous other films, I predict big things for this one.

A mean sheriff (Clint Howard) is out to get the boy and he must fight to survive as lies are spread about him.

Often heavy handed when adults were in the scenes, some of the best moments are when young actors Bennett, Gabriel Basso and Uriah Shelton (from Alabama) who escape into the woods to break from the boy’s home.

Howard provides a comic and great character performance which led the Sidewalk jury to create the Clint Howard Character Actor Award.

John Goodman also plays a small but pivotal role that helps Moon find his place in the world. Although hardly on screen, Goodman delivers his performance with warmth and concern.

Bottom line – the film could be better served with a few cuts from the overly dramatic opening and launch into the the boy’s home set up. The strength lies in the tension between Moon and the Sheriff and Moon’s ability to begin to trust in his young friends. A film that will likely succeed with a younger demographic, it may not do as well with film festival audiences.

On a significant note – the Alabama Governor spoke on behalf of the film promising that movies such as this  will hopefully no longer go elsewhere to film with the new film incentives for the state. That puts Louisiana, Tennesee, Georgia and now Alabama in the Southern game. Mississippi? Will we step up our incentive package?

“Alabama Moon” screens at Austin Film Festival on Oct. 25.


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