That Childhood Spirit
Hearts in Atlantis
Review by Ross Anthony

Stephen King's success in the literary world is indisputable; unfortunately, however, the translation of his work to the screen proves hit and miss. Rest assured "Hearts" isn't a miss.

In fact, smack in it's middle, the film packs a hearty punch, bringing to mind the wonder and magic of childhood as so spiritedly stirred to life in one of King's earlier screen hits "Stand By Me." The relationship developed between Ted (Hopkins), the boarder upstairs, and Bobby (Yelchin), the fatherless child, proves potent and moving through most of this picture.

It's the beginning and end, which cause the enthusiasm pause. Like "Stand By Hearts in AtlantisMe," "Hearts" begins with the grown up recalling memories of his youth, but instead of Richard Dreyfuss, David Morse (adult Bobby) tells the tale. And the trigger here? An old friend dies, motivating Morse to return to his small hometown in 1960's Connecticut.

Bobby's mom is entertainingly selfish, though distracting similar in appearance to Hillary. The kids perform well, Boorem bringing to the screen grace and innocence. And of course, Hopkins filling a roll seemingly tailored for him with whit, perception and charm. All of that works. The character conflicts, developments and intertwining therein all work (save for the beginning and end).

Slow to gain audience trust, initial notice of death makes the deceased's identity rather confusing. Soon enough the picture clears the quandary. In fact, John Sullivan, Bobby's childhood friend has passed (not his Bobby's son). Though the springboard for the tale, Sully's import is minimal and disappointingly fleeting. A tie-in at the end would have strengthened the film. Instead, filmmakers opt for a rather cliché wrap that adds nothing while subtracting just a little.

Sweetly set and photographed, finely acted, endearingly told, "Hearts" has heart, but lacks a commanding finale primarily because of a few gorgeous conceptual threads that are just left to dwindle in order to make way for more surface level resolutions. Still, a very very strong "B+."

Screenwriter William Goldman says, "I love King most when he's not dealing with monsters but dealing with human monsters." Ironically (according to press notes), Hopkins was reading a book by Goldman about the time that he was contacted to do the film. He had coincidentally been thinking, "It would be good to do a Stephen King novel."

  • Hearts in Atlantis. Copyright © 2001. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis, Mika Boorem, David Morse, Will Rothhaar.
  • Directed by Scott Hicks.
  • Screenwriter: William Goldman.
  • Adapted from the novel by Stephen King.
  • Produced by Kerry Heysen at Castle Rock/Village Roadshow/Warner Brothers.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:08:50 PDT