Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
June 6, 2013
**1/2 (out of four)
If you've never read a Judy Blume book, you probably didn't do enough reading as a kid. “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”? “Superfudge”? “Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret”? You have to bat at least one for three there.
Surprisingly, “Tiger Eyes” marks the first film made from a Blume novel, and it's got the credentials: With screenwriting help from his mom, Blume's son Lawrence directs and co-writes this sporadically affecting take on the 1981 novel about a young girl coping with the loss of her murdered father.
Davey (Willa Holland of “Arrow” and “The O.C.”) has little time to grieve in her Atlantic City home before she, her mom (Amy Jo Johnson) and her annoyingly perky kid brother head to Davey's aunt and uncle's place in New Mexico to get some distance from tragedy. She soon meets Wolf (Tatanka Means, a bit old for the role at 28), who tells her that thinking's not against the law. Good thing; “Tiger Eyes” features several shots of characters not doing much more than reflecting, as the Blumes struggle to transfer page to screen.
That doesn't mean the act of processing pain is wrong or easy. At its best, “Tiger Eyes” depicts a teenager acclimating to the reality of no longer having her dad there to care for her. Davey doesn't engage in some overdone, cliched rebellion. She just tries to ride out the sadness and figure out how to move on.
Unfortunately the Blumes can't prevent drama from becoming melodrama, and they gain little from attempts at comedy via Davey's quirky classmates. (One tries to recruit Davey for The Society for the Preservation of Creative Anachronisms.) More depth lives there, however, than in the sub-fortune cookie maxim, “Life is a good adventure,” which is stated twice in the film. In both English and Spanish.
Time heals; repetition doesn't.
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