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KIDS ON FILM

Does 'The Client' Go by the Book? Opposing Sides Testify

July 28, 1994|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for the Times' Life & Style section.

In the movie adaptation of the John Grisham novel "The Client," rebellious 10-year-old Mark Sway is chased by the mob after witnessing the death of a Mafia lawyer and hires a feisty lawyer to protect him. (Rated PG-13)

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You think kids today don't read? Try asking a few about masterful storyteller John Grisham.

"I love John Grisham. I call the bookstores to see when his next book is coming out. I count the days. I call different stores to see who's going to get it first," said Kristen Hoppe, 14.

" 'The Firm,' 'The Pelican Brief,' I've read all of them," she said. But more of her friends have read "The Client" than any other--not surprising, since the main character is a kid who outwits not only the murderous Barry the Blade, but also the publicity-seeking federal prosecutor (Tommy Lee Jones) who wants him to tell what he knows about the murderous activities of the mob.

"He was like the perfect kid with the perfect brain. He could think of all this stuff to get away. It's like the adventure every kid wants to have," Kristen said. "I loved his rebellious attitude."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 4, 1994 Orange County Edition OC Live! Page 11 OC Live Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Grisham title--In last week's Kids on Film column, "A Time to Kill" was incorrectly identified as John Grisham's latest novel. It was Grisham's first novel. "The Chamber" is his latest.

She also admired the character of Reggie Love (Susan Sarandon), the recovering alcoholic lawyer Mark hires for $1. "She was incredible. That's exactly how I imagined her in the book! I liked the way she stood up to so many important people and how she'd overcome her problems in the past. I thought it was really good.

"I thought it was perfectly cast. All of them. Mrs. Sway (played by Mary-Louise Parker) was really good too." Parker plays Mark's low-functioning single mother, who can only lash out at the police when they come to take Mark into custody for his own protection. "I thought she reacted like a normal parent would under those circumstances."

Kristen has also seen movie versions of Grisham's "The Firm" and "The Pelican Brief" and said: "This was by far my favorite. By far. " Not only was it perfectly cast, she thought, but it was also faithful to the plot.

" 'The Firm' didn't tend to stick to the story as much as this, and 'The Pelican Brief' didn't either. This was by far the closest to the story, there was nothing different."

Not everyone agreed. "It was nothing like the book. The book was better, more in depth," said Charlie Smith, 15. The novel was able to provide more details about the characters and better descriptions of a chase through the woods, he said. He added that the continuous legal dialogue--to explain, for instance, why prosecutors think Mark is obstructing justice, or how he can be shielded by the witness protection program--was "over my head a little."

Even though the movie stars a child, the plot is complex and would likely bore younger children.

Even Summer Stearns, 14, who had not read the book, said she was confused on a few points. "It could have been longer. I didn't pick up on why (a senator) got murdered and why the Mafia was so interested in this kid. And where did Barry the Blade come from? I didn't understand all of that."

Somehow, that didn't seem to matter much. "I was trying to keep up with the loose ends and they tied them all together," she said. And for the record, she liked "The Client" better than "The Firm."

Summer gave the movie 4.5 stars out of a perfect 5, but her friend Kristen said it merited an off-the-scale 8.

"I loved 'A Time to Kill' (the latest Grisham novel). I'm hoping they make a movie out of that," she said.

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