The War (1994)

Kevin Costner takes a surprise second billing in THEWAR, a heavy-handed
"message movie" about a father trying to teach his son about the
consequences of violent action.  Though not quite as cloying as a rabid
romance, this lead-footed film is still way too literal to be taken

The year is 1970, and Stu and Lidia Simmons (Elijah Wood and Lexi
Randall) have just welcomed their dad Stephen (Kevin Costner) home from
the war.  He's wearing scars both inside and out, and he can't hold a
job to save his life, but they still love him.  They even stand by him
when he acts nice to the Lipnickis-- a pack of neighborhood children who
don't like either of the Simmons kids.  Said dislike leads to a turf
war, which leads to fighting, which leads to [insert eye-rolling] a
valuable lesson on tolerance and understanding.


There's a pretty good story here, but you'd never know it by the way
director Jon Avent literalizes every Important Idea in sight.  Take the
first flashback, where Stephen tries to tell his son about what happened
in Vietnam.  Instead of letting Costner chew on a meaty monologue-- ala,
say, Robert Shaw in JAWS-- Avent cuts to an exploding jungle with
bullets and bodies and all those things that have no place in a
dialogue-driven drama.

And Avent does this over and over and over again, straight through the
ending where the "big message" is symbolized by a battle over a
treehouse (don't ask).  Granted the whole thing is kinda cute-- think
left over (in silly speeches) is pretty pathetic.

BOTTOM LINE:  Only slightly more subtle than the ouvre of Oliver Stone,
THE WAR should score as a crowd-pleaser.  If you can buy into it, bring
a hankie.

Grade: C

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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