This is the second attempt to adapt Natalie Babbitt's classic children's book into a movie - the first was a made for television version, but now Disney gives the book the major studio feature film treatment. The book presents a major challenge, because not only is Tuck Everlasting beloved, but it is also largely driven by ideas rather than by plot. Additionally, while it is a children's - or perhaps, more accurately, a young adult - book, it is also an examination of some fairly heady themes.
Jay Russell seems like an appropriate director to handle these challenges however, seeing as he has previously made My Dog Skip, which dealt with some difficult ideas to present in a family film as well. In this case he won't have a cute dog to fall back on, so the concern still exists that the film might slip through the cracks by seeming too mature for the younger audience, but not mature enough for the older audience.
Tuck Everlasting is centered on Winnie Foster, a girl at the turn of the century who longs to escape her overbearing parents and humdrum life. While walking in the woods, she comes across the Tuck family and their secret. She befriends the Tucks and later must help them when their secret is jeopardized by The Man in the Yellow Suit.
The casting of The Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel as Winnie points to one major change from the book. In the book, Winnie is pre-adolescent, yet with Bledel in the role, she must be around 16 years old in the film. Purists may be up in arms about the change, but it will add an interesting dynamic and urgency to Winnie's relationship with the teenaged Jesse Tuck. It also suggests that the film may operate and be marketed at least partly as a serious teen romance, and these films have recently performed admirably at the box office.
The other aspect of the film is that of a prestige production. The supporting adult cast includes William Hurt, Sissy Spacek, and Ben Kingsley, who are greatly admired and may be in a position to be further awarded for their work in Tuck Everlasting.
At the box office, Tuck Everlasting will have to walk the tightrope of perhaps not appealing obviously to any one demographic. It seems like the best bet will be to try to attract teen and pre-teen girls with the romance angle and bring in adults who remember the book fondly or who are interested in the distinguished cast. The latter group may very well be influenced by how critics receive the film, so glowing reviews and early awards buzz could very well propel the film to strong box office, while a lukewarm reception could severely limit it. (Calvin Trager/BOP)