US Release Date: 10-09-1998
Directed by: Peter Chelsom
- Elden Henson, as
- Maxwell "Max" Kane, The Mighty
- Kieran Culkin, as
- Kevin Dillon, Freak
- Sharon Stone, as
- Gwen Dillon
- Gena Rowlands, as
- Susan "Gram" Pinneman
- Harry Dean Stanton, as
- Elton "Grim" Pinneman
- James Gandolfini, as
- Kenny "Killer" Kane
- Gillian Anderson, as
- Loretta Lee
- Meat Loaf, as
- Iggy Lee
- Jenifer Lewis, as
- Mrs. Addison
- Joseph Perrino, as
- Tony Fowler
- John Bourgeois as
- Mr. Sacker
Kieran Culkin and Elden Henson in The Mighty.
The Mighty is the heartfelt story of two young boys, both misfits, who become friends and change each others' lives. It was based on the 1993 book Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. It stars Elden Henson and Kieran Culkin, with Sharon Stone, Gena Rowlands, Harry Dean Stanton, James Gandolfini, Gillian Anderson and Meat Loaf in supporting roles. Peter Chelsom directs this highly sentimental story with a straightforward touch.
Culkin plays Kevin, a very intelligent 13 year old who suffers from a debilitating disease. He uses crutches and a brace to walk and spends his time living in his own dream world. His next door neighbor is Max a shy, dyslexic boy who lives with his grandparents. He is big for his age and has flunked the seventh grade twice. Kevin and Max eventually bond when they are threatened by a gang of bad boys. Kevin provides the brains while Max provides the legs, as he carries the smaller boy on his shoulders (see photo).
Both boys are missing fathers. Kevin's left when he was a baby, unable to handle the fact that his son was born with birth defects. Max's father (Gandolfini) is in prison and he eventually shows up to terrorize his son. Kevin comes to the rescue and things get pretty exciting for a while. Then the story turns tragic and becomes a real tearjerker. I won't give away details about the ending but it's a bit overwrought.
The story here isn't original, it follows a well-worn path, but the supporting cast is good and the two main boys both give excellent performances. James Gandolfini and Gillian Anderson both play white trash, complete with redneck accents. Sharon Stone proves she's more than just a face and a body as Kevin's mother, struggling with her son's special needs. But the story is really about the transformative power of friendship, especially between 13 year old boys. By the end of the movie you'll be smiling through your tears.
Eldon Henson and Sharon Stone in The Mighty
The Mighty not only celebrates the power of friendship but also the need for it. As Patrick wrote, Kevin provides the brains while Max provides the legs. They are two pieces of a puzzle that when connected, make a beautiful picture. They are just what they each need, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Kevin only seems to have his single mother while Max only has his grandparents. Both boys are burdens to their loving legal guardians who do what they can for them. It is in each other’s company though, where the boys discover adventure and personal growth. Through their imagination they find temporary refuge from the harsh reality of their world. Through their fascination with The Knights of the Round Table, Kevin and Max explore honor, integrity and bravery. These social misfits learn much from their time together.
Culkin is good as the falsely brave Kevin, writing checks with his mouth that his body cannot cash. It is however, Henson whom the film belongs to. He is afraid to open his mouth but he reveals much with his stoic expressions. Max wants to go through life unnoticed yet is cursed with a build that constantly gets attention.
Stone has a couple of decent scenes. Her best being when she talks to the school official about allowing her son to participate in gym class. She actually has minimum screen time as the story stays focused on the boys.
I enjoyed this film very much and was, like Patrick, moved by the ending. However, I had a couple of qualms. My first issue is that the coincidence of Kevin and Max finding the purse that leads them to the one couple that know Max’s father is too great to ignore. The other is that the boys who torment Kevin and Max throughout the film never truly get a comeuppance. Even with these flaws, The Mighty remains a beautifully tender story.
Photos © Copyright Miramax Films (1998)