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 Adventures of Mark Twain is a 1985 movie filmed in Claymation that explores the stories, characters, and quips of Mark Twain. The biggest concern for parents is the nightmarish imagery in some scenes -- bizarre dream worlds where a demonic character with a tragedy mask for a face waxes bleak about the human condition, or a demonic Injun Joe wields a knife. There's also some minor profanity ("hell" and "damned"). The film offers an honest portrayal of Mark Twain's cynicism (and cigar smoking), which is often overlooked in more sugarcoated presentations of his work. Parents looking for a more straightforward introduction to Twain for younger kids should look elsewhere.
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What's the story?
Born as Halley's Comet passed the Earth, Mark Twain has constructed an airship to go into space to find Halley's Comet as it makes its return trip at the end of his life. His characters Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher manage to sneak aboard the ship, and meet the man who created them, as he shares some of his best-known quips and tells a selection of his classic stories -- among them "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County," "The Diary of Adam and Eve," and "Captain Stromfield's Visit to Heaven." As the ship comes ever closer to Halley's Comet and, thus, the end of Twain's life, Twain and his characters discuss life, death, and the afterlife, as he instructs his characters on piloting the ship without him.
Is it any good?
THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN is more intelligent than many of the more sanitized and sugarcoated renderings of the great author and his stories. It's unafraid to present a more complete portrait of Twain's stories, quips, and characters -- cynicism, cigar smoking, and all. Much of the story is focused on relatively lesser-known stories like "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" and "The Diary of Adam and Eve" as Twain fearlessly pilots his airship to Halley's Comet while the movie fearlessly discusses weighty matters of life, death, and the afterlife.
The movie is more of an advanced discussion of Mark Twain's life and work than a simple introduction to Twain. While Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are featured prominently, their actual stories are given very little time in this movie. For those new to Twain, this film might be a bit overwhelming. However, for those more familiar with his style, humor, and stories, this movie is a clever presentation of what Twain was about, and why his stories live on.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mark Twain. What aspects of his life and personality are discussed in this movie? Did you learn anything new about him?
What is your favorite Mark Twain story or quotation? Why?
What effect does the use of Claymation have on the way the story is told and presented?
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