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Laramie Movie Scope: Tall Tale

A medley of legends

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 28, 1995 -- ``Tall Tale: The Adventures of Pecos Bill,'' is a good Disney fantasy adventure for kids. It combines a 19th century ``losing the ranch'' story with three legendary American figures, Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and John Henry.

The story has a 12-year-old boy, Daniel Hackett (Nick Stahl) trying to save the family farm from an evil gunslinger-developer (Scott Glenn). He gets help from Pecos Bill (Patrick Swayze) and Paul Bunyan (Oliver Platt) and John Henry (Roger Aaron Brown).

Along the way, Hackett learns about the courage needed to stand against the odds. The movie is effective at making these three legends (with a brief appearance by Calamity Jane (Catherine O'Hara) real human characters. My only problem was the revisionist history: an ecologically-correct Paul Bunyan, a Pecos Bill that shoots people, but doesn't kill them, and a sensitive John Henry that wants to get in touch with his inner self.

Otherwise, the story works well. It is really a classic tale of a quest. The quest is to save the ranch, but it is also a quest for courage and for an determination of what young Hackett really wants out of life.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski does a good job capturing some beautiful mountain scenery as well as desolate deserts. There is some violence in the film, which includes people's fingers being shot off, people being wounded and some fist fights. The film is rated PG. I rate this film a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)