Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 7/2/99
1998 (1999) Miramax (Buena
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/C-
Specs and Features
100 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, short "behind-the-scenes"
production featurette, Sting music video for The
Mighty (includes making-of interviews), film-themed
menus, scene access (19 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1),
subtitles: English, Close Captioned
Mighty is the story of two boys who are loners both at
their school and in life. One, Max (Elden Henson), is big, dumb, and
at least that's what his classmates think. He's quiet, he
can't read, and he lives in the basement of his grandparents house,
in a poor Cleveland neighborhood, the product of a very troubled
family history. The other is Max's new neighbor, Kevin (Kieran
Culkin), who lives with his caring, but over-protective, single
mother. Kevin is smart, witty and outspoken
but he suffers
from a crippling degenerative disease, forcing him to walk on
crutches. Kevin doesn't let that cramp his style, however, or his
continual optimism. And when Kevin and Max become friends, the two
learn to be much more than the sum of their parts. Max's strength
and legs give Kevin access to a larger world, and the protection of
a trusted friend. And Kevin opens Max's mind, teaching him to read,
and to not live in fear of life, despite the shortcomings of his
Based on the Rodman Philbrick novel Freak
the Mighty (and adapted for the screen by Philbrick and
Charles Leavitt), The Mighty
is a truly wonderful film. Director Peter Chelsom creates a very
rare gem, that manages to be at once fresh, touching and even a
measure whimsical. The book Kevin uses to teach Max to read, is King
Arthur and his Knights, and as they work their way
through the first chapter, the story of the book and its legends
becomes interwoven in the fabric of the movie. The movie eventually
takes on the chapter-like aspect of the novel, with on-screen titles
like: "Chapter Two: Walking High Above the World". As Max
and Kevin's imaginations bond their friendship, and give them the
courage to walk the world together proudly, there are wonderful
little visual comparisons between them and the knights of old.
The ensemble cast here is one of the best, and arguably one of the
more interesting, that I've seen in a film in years. In addition to
Henson and Culkin, who are both nothing short of terrific, Gena
Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton absolutely shine as Max's concerned
grandparents, Gram and Grim. Sharon Stone gives a very touching
performance as Kevin's mother Gwen, revealing just the right amount
of fierce, loving pride in her son, and pain for his condition. And
Gillian Anderson is wonderful as Loretta Lee, a poor-white-trash
floozie, whose brief appearances in the film are the key to
revealing Max's past, and important to the resolution of the story.
Anderson is a definite talent, and she shows some great range here,
playing a character about as far from her Agent Scully role on The
X-Files as can be. There's even a great cameo by Meat
Loaf - no kidding.
The widescreen video on this DVD is generally very good, outside of
being occasionally a touch grainy - a print issue, and not so much a
transfer problem. What is a problem transfer-wise, is that Buena
Vista once again chose to make one of its most wonderful recent
films non-anamorphic on DVD. And that's really disheartening. It's
bad enough that they do it on so-so titles, but when it happens to
the really good ones, it's extremely disappointing. Outside of this
issue, the transfer does look very good, with terrific color. It's
vibrant when necessary, and muted where appropriate. The blacks also
are excellent - deep and true, with still plenty of detail. And
there's very little in the way of edge enhancement visible. The
audio is also generally good, in full Dolby Digital 5.1. It isn't
especially immersive - you wont hear a lot of rear channel effects.
But for a more personal story like this, that's okay. You do get
some nice atmospheric fill, and enough bass channel to make the
What is a little disappointing, is the presentation and the extras.
This film, with its Arthurian knights thread, would have really lent
itself to the creation of fun animated menus on DVD. Just think of
what DreamWorks, for example, would have done with the menus on this
disc. Instead, we get a really boring main menu page, and even more
boring sub-menus. As far as supplemental materials, you get a short
"behind-the-scenes" piece, with very brief interview clips
(the kind of thing you'd see between movies on HBO), and the Sting
music video for the title song, with some brief "making-of"
footage and interviews as a lead in. Now, I'm a big Sting fan, so
the having the video is pretty cool for me. And as a huge fan of The
Police, I dig the fact that the band's former guitarist, Andy
Summers, makes a rare appearance reunited with Sting in the video.
The two were apparently recording a song for a Summers' album at
Sting's estate in England, and Sting asked Andy to hang around for
the weekend when the video shoot took place. The result is that fans
get to see the two clowning around (literally) on screen again. But
both shorts have a very digitally compressed look to them (think
artifacts), as if the disc makers were pushing the bitrate lower to
fit it all on a DVD-5 disc (single-sided, single-layered). And
again, just think of all the kinds of fun little extras this disc
could have had? This is, at heart, a magical tale. But other than
the movie, there's not much magic on this disc. And, no
Film Recommendations section doesn't count.
The Mighty is one of those
films you just shouldn't miss. The film got largely overlooked in
theaters, despite the high caliber of its cast. I'm not sure the
studio had any idea how to market this film. I mean, just look at
the DVD case artwork - no one but Sharon Stone looks anything like
their characters in the film. This was just the old, "let's put
the stars' pictures on the poster, and hope that sells it"
approach. In the end, I think the marketing dollars this film
deserved, were spent instead on Simon
Birch. And that's too bad, because this is a much better
film. This is a great one to watch with your whole family, and it's
every bit as captivating for adults as the younger set. The discs'
lackluster value aside, this is a movie you should definitely see.
Buy the DVD online at a reduced price, get it at retail on sale, or
rent it at least - it's one of the better little movies I've seen in
some time. Bite deeply and savor.