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KIDS ON FILM

Huck's a Boy's Boy, but Some Girls Can Relate

April 22, 1993|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition. and

In Walt Disney Pictures' "The Adventures of Huck Finn," free-spirited Huck set s out along the Mississippi with his pal Jim, a runaway slave, and picks up some valuable lessons about life . Rated PG.

*

Oh, right. You smear some boar blood around your pappy's cabin, break a few chairs, run off to an island and bam!--just like that everybody believes you've been murdered. Then, even though every yahoo on the Mississippi is out gunning for the runaway slave who supposedly did the dirty deed, you and he give them all the slip and squeeze in some pretty spit-lickin'adventures to boot.

"It was kind of unbelievable how he got away with all that stuff," said Andy, 14, "but I guess things were pretty different back then."

Such as?

"Well, they for sure would have figured out that wasn't his blood. . . . And besides, (Huck's) picture would have been on the back of a milk carton or something."

Nonetheless, Andy, his brother Joe, 12, and their friend Sage, 10, all agreed that "Huck Finn" was a winner.

For Joe, an action-movie fan, the highlight was a tense scene in which the good (but vengeful) folk of Phelp's Landing, waiting with boiling tar and a hangman's noose, are interrogating the scheming Duke and King ("The music, the rain--all that stuff was really good").

Sage liked the part "at the end when Huck heard the steamboat (whistle) and he goes off for another adventure." Not that he, personally, planned to follow Huck.

"I kind of like to be civilized," he said.

Even so, all three boys agreed that Huck's unfettered spirit is courageous, bold--well, you know--a guy thing.

The real heart of the movie would be lost on your average female, they thought.

"Boys can understand why he'd want to run away," offered Andy. "It would be kind of hard to explain it to a girl."

I happened to mention this later to my moviegoing companions, Erin, 11, and her friend Rachel, 12, and was rewarded with a pair of Grade A eye-rolls and heavy sighs.

"OK, it's not a movie for all girls; like, my sister, she probably wouldn't like it," conceded Rachel, a self-described "camping freak" who said the movie's picturesque, riverfront setting "made me feel like I wanted to go fishing."

The film's violence, which includes a gun battle between a pair of feuding families that leads to the death of a young boy, didn't seem to faze either girl.

"It wasn't even bloody; 'course it was Disney," noted Rachel.

Erin, however, did describe as "kind of scary" a scene in which Jim discovers the body of Huck's Pap aboard a sinking ship.

Although neither girl recognized the name of the tale's original author at first pass--Rachel later recalled seeing Mark Twain portrayed in an episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ("He had a white beard, right?")--both girls thought the book might make a good read, "as long as nobody was making me."

The story's deeper issues--Jim's slavery, Huck's abuse at the hands of Pap and both characters' craving for independence--seemed to make an impression on the girls and even prompted some semi-serious discussion about the human spirit.

"I liked Jim the best because he was a slave and he had to deal with all that emotional stuff inside him," observed Erin. "And he was still funny."

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