The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

2013 Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie

Rating: 13/20

Plot: Young T.S. Spivet tries to recover from a family tragedy and the fact that his mom has no luck with toasters. He's surprised by an invitation from the Smithsonian Institute to accept an award for his perpetual motion machine. He sneaks away from his Montana ranch and his father, mother, and sister to ride the rails all the way to Washington.

I'm not sure what was going on with the toasters.

This has all the elements you'd expect from a Jeunet movie. There are quirky characters and camera zaniness, and the whole thing feels airy while you know there's this melancholic undercurrent. Actually, I don't know if there's an undercurrent. Jeunet spreads the pathos pretty thick here. This movie keeps threatening to break out and hatch into a great Jeunet movie, but it just never comes together, never connects. There's a trip into the sister's cortex; there's a talking dog (seriously, I swear this is about the sixth movie I've seen this year with a talking dog in it); Dominique Pinon pops in as Two Clouds, a hobo with Johnny Cash's boots; a jack o'lantern gets a golden shower; some insects. It meanders, but it doesn't meander as beautifully as Amelie although the introductions to the central characters might remind you of that movie. It ends up being a road trip movie that feels like something you've seen before, and when you watch a movie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, you definitely don't want to be watching something you feel like you've seen before.

This doesn't have much of Jeunet's imaginative camera work. There's a fun little sight gag that has to do with the train, there are some swooping crane shots, and there's a nice quick moment with some great sound effects before a character gives a speech. And Jeunet does find an excuse to work in an upside-down swinging vantage shot. Montana looks really good in this movie although I have reasons to believe this was actually not filmed in Montana. Apparently, this is the first movie to be shot with some newfangled 3D camera, but I didn't watch the movie in 3D and couldn't tell you anything about that.

I thought the kid, played by Kyle Catlett, was pretty good although there certainly was a lot of him. I believe the kid's in every single scene of the movie. That's a lot of kid.

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