"The Reivers," adapted from the William Faulkner novel, is a slice-of-life film that effortlessly transports the viewer to the gentler, bygone days of 1905 rural Mississippi. It is a coming-of-age story that elicits the kind of reverie viewers found in last year's superb "Ramblin' Rose," but "The Reivers" is even more fun.
In it, reluctant preteen Will (Mitch Vogel) is persuaded by an older brother (Steve McQueen) and the family's hired hand (Rupert Crosse) to join them in a clandestine adventure. With parents and grandfather away for the weekend, they decide to steal Grandpa's brand-new car, a Winton Flyer ( reiver is a Scottish word meaning robber or raider). The planned 20-mile trip to the big city (Memphis) is just a means for Boon (McQueen) to see his girlfriend (Sharon Farrell), who works in a whorehouse.
Will has never seen, nor even imagined, such sights as he encounters along this trek. While Boon is fooling around, the car is taken--traded for a horse, actually--and the ensuing quest to recover it exposes Will to all sorts of colorful characters and experiences, not to mention guilt and responsibility (common coming-of-age film elements).
Will Geer (who went on to become TV's Grandpa Walton) is perfection as the type of grandfather everyone would love to have: sincere, kind, wise, honest, yet firm. McQueen is at his boyish, mischievous best. So is Crosse, who got nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. They have good chemistry and make a marvelous, raucous pair of hooligans.
This film also earned John Williams the first of his many Academy Award nominations for the musical score (this was six years before "Jaws").
This film, deftly directed by Mark Rydell ("Cinderella Liberty," "The Rose," "On Golden Pond"), is a celebration of simpler times and gentler hearts. It is an absolute joy to watch.
"The Reivers" (1969), directed by Mark Rydell. 109 minutes. Rated PG.