Musical adaptation doesn't improve the classic tale.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the "N" word is used several times in this 1974 musical adaptation of Mark Twain's classic novel, though the word appears far less frequently than in the novel. There is some gun play and a few people get hurt in a family feud, plus one mildly bawdy scene. The movie also takes liberties with the original storyline.
Some violence and lots of cussing
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PG-13: some sequences intense violence and brief thematic elements
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What's the Story?
When Huck Finn's drunken Pap learns that Huck (Jeff East) has a considerable sum of money in the bank, he takes Huck away from the Widow who is "civilizing" him so he can get the money for himself. Huck escapes from Pap and hides out on a nearby island, where he runs into his old friend Jim (Paul Winfield), who is now an escaped slave hoping to cross the river to be a free man in Cairo, Illinois, where he wants to open a dry goods store and make enough money to buy the freedom of his family.
Together, they set out on a journey down the river, where they meet slavehunters and conmen, families feuding and families in mourning, as they both aspire to escape their bad situations.
Is It Any Good?
This could have been a better-than-average adaptation, despite the fact that it takes some liberties with Twain's novel. While Paul Winfield imbues the role of Jim with a dignity not often seen nor felt in the original nor the many film and TV versions, and Harvey Korman brings a gleeful zest to his role as the conniving conman who claims he's the King of France, the musical numbers feel forced and completely unnecessary.
Older kids would do better reading the original novel. Younger kids would do better waiting until they're old enough to appreciate the satire and realism expressed in the original novel.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how slavery is portrayed in the film. How accurately do you think the film reflects the realities of slavery in the mid-19th century?
As an adaptation of one of the greatest American novels, how does this film compare with the original? In what ways does it stay true to the story, and it what ways does it veer off?
Talk about the "N" word. How does it make you feel to hear that word? Do you think it's important to use historically accurate language in a movie like this, or should it be removed because it's offensive? Do you feel the same about its use in the book?
- In theaters: May 24, 1974
- On DVD or streaming: August 9, 2005
- Cast: Harvey Korman, Jeff East, Paul Winfield
- Director: J. Lee Thompson
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Classic
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Friendship
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: February 25, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
A song-filled family adventure.
Tom and Huck
Unexceptional adaptation, but entertaining movie.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Classic novel grapples with moral question of slavery.
For kids who love history
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