The Adventures of Huck Finn

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
The Adventures of Huck Finn Movie Poster Image
'90s Disney adaptation has some peril, violence.
  • PG
  • 1993
  • 108 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Good people eventually see that slavery is wrong. It's important to know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes people can be persuaded that wrong things are right.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Huck is a self-sufficient kid who has survived his violent and drunken father's beatings and abuse. He loves Jim, and his loyalty to him outweighs notions that slavery is OK just because it's the law in the South. Jim is a steadfast and loyal friend and protector. Huck is a good liar and uses the ability strategically. Both Huck and Jim show a willingness to apologize for their errors.

Violence

Feuding families shoot and kill each other. A slave is nearly hanged but saved at the last minute. A boy is shot and killed. Another boy is shot in the back but survives. A little blood is seen. Thieves die on a sinking ship. A criminal is killed by his partners. Men are tarred. A corpse is dug up. Two men try to scam a wealthy grieving family out of their money.

Sex
Language

"Hell," "damn," "ass," "butt," and "turd."

 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man is a violent drunk. Adults drink alcohol. A boy smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Adventures of Huck Finn is a 1993 family-friendly Disney version of the Mark Twain novel set in the pre-Civil War South. Unlike the novel, there's no use of the "N" word, but the anti-racist message is clear. The immorality of slavery, the importance of knowing right from wrong, and a celebration of friendship and adventure are all on display. Huck is a fearless child, abused by a selfish and drunken father. Frightening situations arise in his quest to help his runaway slave friend get to the safety of the North, but it's his failings and his struggles to overcome them that make him a character kids will identify with and perhaps admire. Language includes "ass," "butt," and "hell." Feuding families shoot and kill each other. A slave is nearly hanged but saved at the last minute. A boy is shot and killed. Another boy is shot in the back but survives. A little blood is seen. Thieves die on a sinking ship. A criminal is killed by his partners. Men are tarred. A corpse is dug up. Two men try to scam a wealthy grieving family out of their money.

 

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What's the story?

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN features an adorable Elijah Wood as the optimistic Huck, who is both Southern to the core and also willing to question the adult Southern values of the time that make it legal to own other human beings. Huck's slave friend, Jim (Courtney B. Vance), has escaped and confides that he plans to head north for freedom so he can make enough money to buy his wife and children's freedom as well. Huck has cleverly evaded his alcoholic and violent father (Ron Perlman) by faking his own death, spreading the blood of a wild boar around his father's cabin. Locals assume that the escaped slave is the murderer and "wanted" posters bearing Jim's likeness go up along the Mississippi, which makes the quest for freedom even more dangerous. Pirates stop them briefly, but it's two scam artists (Jason Robards and Robbie Coltrane) who hold them in servitude against their will when they find out Jim is wanted. Jim and Huck are forced to take part in a scheme to swindle wealthy orphaned girls out of their fortune. The swindlers are caught and tarred, but Huck gets shot and Jim, who was thrown in jail, is taken by an angry gang to be hanged. The noose is around his neck and the villagers are tugging at the rope when someone shows up to assure the crowd that Jim is innocent. Huck is given money, which he gives to Jim. With the prospect of being "civilized" by a well-meaning guardian, Huck tosses his fancy clothes and heads for more self-sufficiency and adventure.

Is it any good?

This Disney version of a classic story is a well-made film for kids that deals with adult issues: child abuse, alcoholism, slavery, friendship, and doing the right thing. The Adventures of Huck Finn blunts some of the force of Twain's novel, which uses racist language, making this something that can appeal to the sense of fairness that resides in the hearts of most young middle-school kids. Huck's resilience in the face of hardship -- parental abuse, strict rules, and guardians bent on "civilizing" him -- is exemplary. His ingenuity, self-reliance, and poise in difficult situations also makes him a perfect antihero. He has no use for money or nice clothes, and he can as easily shoot a wild boar as pretend to be a demure girl in a pink frock. His example might help guide some kids struggling to handle sibling and schoolyard rivalries, as well as moral dilemmas. Wood is a likable Huck, and Vance plays Jim as a man of great depth, curiosity, and decency.    

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Huck's struggles to understand that just because slavery was legal didn't mean it was right. How does The Adventures of Huck Finn want you to view his supposedly "wrong" decision to help free Jim? Why do you think Huck changes his mind about that?

  • What does it tell us that Huck is proud that he can read and write? Why do you think Huck doesn't go to school? What is the difference between ignorance and stupidity?

  • Huck gets beaten by his father, a man who abandoned the boy but has come back after hearing Huck was left some money. Huck seems to forgive his father for all the beatings. Why do you think that is?

  • How does Jim show his love and loyalty to Huck?

Movie details

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