There’s something oddly familiar about “Mud.” I guess any tale about two boys having an adventure along the Mississippi River is bound to draw comparisons to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Twain’s tale was the first thing to come to mind when I read the synopsis for “Mud” and I feel the comparison is a fair one even after seeing this very entertaining coming-of-age movie.
Ellis and Neckbone are best buds. The two teens sneak out in the wee hours to take their boat to investigate a small, desolate island. Neckbone has charted these waters before and made quite the discovery: a boat nestled in the high branches of a tree! He shows his friend Ellis his discovery and the two decide it is the best treehouse two kids could ever dream to have. While exploring their new hideaway, Ellis finds the telltale signs of occupation. He gets spooked and wants to leave but when the boys get back to their own boat on shore, Ellis finds footprints. The same unusual prints spied in the tree boat that spooked him in the first place. Suddenly they notice "him": a rag tag guy casually fishing just feet away.
So begins our modern day Tom and Huck adventure, all guided by a mysterious stranger. In just a few days the boys will fall in love, get dumped, help an outlaw, play cupid, run afoul of some menacing thugs and take more than a couple of punches along the way.
Mathew McConaughey continues his string of gritty performances as the lovelorn fugitive. He’s so charming and so damaged you can’t help but be suspicious and sympathetic at the same time. But this is the boys’ movie all the way.
Jacob Lofland as Neckbone, the boy with attitude beyond his years, is a hoot. He is so natural with impeccable timing that it seems incredulous that this is his first movie credit. His companion, Tye Sheridan as Ellis, was in "Tree of Life." It is his sole credit. Yet, these two boys carry the movie like seasoned pros. Their chemistry together as well as with McConaughy is powerful.
I gotta give a lot of credit to Reese Witherspoon. As the fugitive’s object of desire Juniper, Witherspoon is the epitome of trailer trash while retaining an aura of fragility and loneliness. And boy did she look the part. I admire her resolve to challenge herself with unusual, small parts that do not rely on her Hollywood good looks.
If you’re looking for a little adventure that’s just off the beaten path, take a slow trip down the Mississippi River with a couple of curious kids and get a little “MUD” in your eye.
“Mud” checks in with 4 Red Vines for being an old-fashioned adventure.
A preview of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way affects my unbiased review.