It is Boston, in the year 1773, and Johnny Tremain is a young apprentice working for a silversmith. Unjustly accused of a crime, he is rescued by several influential men of the city, including Paul Revere. Johnny joins the "Sons of Liberty," a grass roots political organization, and takes part in the Boston Tea Party and in the famous skirmish at Concord.
The legendary events you read about as a school child come to life in a rousing, patriotic tale. While Johnny is a fictional character, most of the others in the movie are real people such as Revere (with his famous ride), Samuel Adams, and Dr. Warren. Hal Stalmaster is a very likeable young Johnny, all innocence and idealism. Walter Sande (Revere) and Rusty Lane (Adams) look like their namesakes and give powerful performances.
This wholesome Disney family movie may be more appreciated by parents than their children (who no doubt have to read the source novel by Esther Forbes in school). It really brings all the names and facts to life and is quite inspiring. Highly recommended.
First off the novel Johnny Tremain is both one of the greatest children stories and one of the greatest revolutionary war novels ever written. Published during the Second World War it has never gone out of print since and rightly so. As source material it is perfectly suited to be given a movie adaption. And when the movie sticks to following the book it is rather entertaining in a 1950s Disney sort of way.
The first half hour is close enough to the book to entertain the fans. The character of Johnny has been changed from arrogant and cocky to pure and innocent in the best tradition of Disney films which can hardly come as a surprise but to expect anything else out of a kid's movie is to be let down. The second half hour loses the mood but keeps near the plot. The Boston Tea Party is entertaining although the singing after it is unforgivably Disney. But by the last half hour the book is thrown to the winds as we see the war first hand. Something about seeing laughing children dancing around the countryside as they shot at redcoats struck me as kind of disturbing for a Disney film. Obviously war was a great adventure that people could enjoy in a typical '50s fashion where nobody but the bad guys got hurt and everyone could share a nice drink afterward. Oh, and somebody who is supposed to die, whose death gives the entire book meaning, doesn't. That would be too dark for a Disney film.
Now if I thought that any of those additions were beneficial to the movie I couldn't really complain, but none of them worked. The first battle was alright but the psychotic murder kids having fun killing redcoats was just awful. The producers probably couldn't see why this might be considered 'creepy'. The acting from the lead is awful and he doesn't seem to have been in anything else afterward. The guy playing Rab seemed to bring a little of the distant charm described in the book but the script doesn't give him more than one or two moments. Walter Sande as Paul Revere was good as were a few of the founding fathers but nothing to write home about.
On the plus side the sets are marvelous. I've never seen colonial Boston come to life so well since (even the excellent John Adams miniseries didn't really feel as lived in due to a slightly greater distance from its characters), largely due to an absence of Revolutionary War films. The Battle of Lexington is moderately well done rather obviously leaving open the question of who fired first. And the first half hour entertains. So in conclusion: good book, good sets, bad everything else. Remake anyone?
I always remembered a film by Disney about the Boston tea party and I could only remember the scene where the star burned his hand so armed with just this info I logged onto the internet to try and find it. I cannot believe I have and thank you Amazon. Its brilliant.......