The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet Poster

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013)

Action | Comedy  | Family
IMDB Rayting:   7.1/10
Country: France | Canada
Language: English

A ten year old scientist secretly leaves his family's ranch in Montana where he lives with his cowboy father and scientist mother, escapes home, and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute.

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ThatMOVIENut 15 December 2014

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2014):

This is the new film from the French Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet. You may best know him as the director of Amelie, City of the Lost Children and Micmacs. This time, we have a sweeter and simpler affair: a young prodigy in Montana, the titular Spivet, has invented a 'perpetual motion machine' thereby solving an enigma that has baffled scientist. The discovery is so hot that it even attracts the attention of the Smithsonian institute, who wish to present the boy with an award, unaware of his real age. So, leaving home and his oddball family behind, T.S embarks on a journey across America to receive his prize.

The Short answer: It's really, really good! The Long? Well, where to start? Well given Jeunet pedigree, the visuals are up first, in all their vibrant, almost Technicolor-esque splendour. What's more, this is quite possibly the best use of 3D I have ever seen in a film. The depth of field is phenomenal, and really adds to the storybook feeling of the whole movie. It's sort of like a giant pop up book, which is fitting as that's how we transition between the different parts of the story. Whether it be out on the Montana ranch, looking out of a train or even in the Smithsonian itself, there is always something coming to the fore or floating out, and it's great fun.

Of course, there are other areas. The cast is top notch, with a pretty solid youngster as our lead. He captures the quirks and brainpower of our inventive young lead, alternately able to sell inspiration, determination and even fear a few times, reminding us T.S, for all his brilliance, is still a child. In supporting roles we have the likes of Helena Bonham Carter as his bug-studying mother, Callum Keith Rennie as his cowboy pop, and even Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon as a lively hobo T.S meets on his travels. This is just a shortlist of the people here, but every one does well and their own vibrance and sort of exuberance contrasts nicely with T.S's very straight forward, matter of fact behaviour and logic.

However, all this is but dressing without a decent script here, and well, we have a fine one. It's undeniably Euro-quirk, despite being a Canadian co-production, with a lot of visual gags and little sprinkles of off-quilter and slightly dark scenarios that are played with a slightly humorous bend (not many movies can make people shooting themselves, a cowboy with a lick fetish and even mourning trauma somewhat amusing, last I checked). However, amidst the silliness, there is a good deal of heart. For all his ingenuity, the film very much still presents T.S as a kid; he makes mistakes, he gets scared he misses his family as he goes on his adventure. The film wisely doesn't make him invulnerably just because he's our lead. What's more, there is a strong element here about dealing with death and letting go concerning a tragedy in the Spivet family, and while at first is somewhat there for amusement, the film does take it more seriously as it progresses, and once again, shows how people would react under that circumstance: some bottle it in, some cry and some regret and take blame. For a film with such a bright colour palette, it can get very dark and touchy a handful of times, and it's all the better for it.

Naturally, how much oddball quirk you can take will affect your enjoyment, and there are a few times where the pacing does slow down a little more than needed. Regardless, if you're burnt out by X Men and Edge of Tom

in1984 29 March 2014

8.5 of 10. Genius kid invents a perpetual motion machine, goes on adventure. Simple but without a well-developed plot and quirky characters like the one Helena Bonham Carter plays (and continues to set her characters apart from every other actor on the planet), this would be heavily dependent on 3D to be worth viewing in theaters.

What starts out as seemingly just a nerd on the ranch family comedy, develops into a more complex tale. Then when it seems to have reduced to a road-trip, self-discovery story, it once again expands and delivers more.

The other key character in this is played by Judy Davis. There are, however, an ongoing stream of brilliant characters to provide fun and suspense in what really shouldn't be promoted as just 3D kid action.

prescottjudith 22 October 2013

Only a director with the creativity and imagination of Jean-Pierre Jeunet would attempt to bring to the big screen in English the best-selling novel by Reif Larsen "The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet". The book, described by author Stephen King as a combination of "MarkTwain, Thomas Pynchon and Little Miss Sunshine", is illustrated with charts, lists, sketches and maps to help recount the adventures of the quirky, gifted 12-year-old boy of the book's title . Jeunet has faithfully reproduced the visual elements of the novel to recreate the offbeat world of T.S Spivet and the use of a 3D format is perfectly suited to breathing life into T.S.'s illustrations which Jeunet's does by drawing on his trademark mix of poetry and fantasy. But the plot does not lift from the page and the young boy's eventful journey seems flat and doggedly two-dimensional.

The adventure starts off promisingly enough. T.S.Spivet (Kyle Catlett) lives on a farm in the 'Big Sky Country' of Montana with his amateur entomologist mother (Helena Bonham Carter), his cowboy father (Callum Keith Rennie) and elder sister (Niamh Wilson). A phone call to the ranch from the prestigious Smithsonian Institute in Washington informs the young Spivet that he has won a prize for one of his inventions. Since the death of his twin brother in a shooting accident, Spivet's mother and father have sidelined the surviving son. Feeling neglected and un-loved, T.S. decides to travel on his own to Washington to accept his prize. The journey takes him across America on a freight train and into a series of encounters with a gallery of colourful characters.

While the scenes in Montana are a triumph to Jeunet's bold, sweeping breadth of vision, once Spivet hops on the train, the action, conversely begins to falter. The characters he meets could have come straight from a cartoon strip – ageing sailor Two Clouds (Dominique Pinon) is a dead ringer for Popeye – and they add little or nothing to the narrative or the tone of the film.

As the lead actor, Catlett carries a lot of responsibility for one so young. No one can deny he is as cute as a button – with his oversized trousers and constant puzzled look – but he lacks the range of emotions needed to create real empathy. This may explain why a film about grief remains oddly unmoving until a a scene towards the film's finale which seems unashamedly designed to pull the heart strings. This latest Jeunet is undoubtedly a glorious visual treat, but it lacks the magic and mystery of 'Amélie' his most successful film to date. I

MartinHafer 29 March 2014

This film is very unusual for Jean-Pierre Jeunet because it's in English and is set in the United States. While he previously directed "Alien: Resurrection", his films are usually in his native language. However, like most of his movies, it is very strange and has a wonderfully unique sense of style that is pure Jeunet. It's hard to exactly describe this style—you just have to see it to believe and appreciate it. This oddness is actually what makes most of his films so wonderful.

As far as the film being set in America, I was not totally surprised by this—especially since a lot of the film is set in the American West. When I have visited France on several occasions, I was very surprised to see that many folks there were very fascinated with the old west and cowboys. The biggest shock was inside the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Paris, as inside this mansion are, believe it or not, cowboys!

The film is about a very small and unique 10 year-old, T.S. Spivet (Kyle Catlett). T.S. is a strange child who is a lot like Dexter from "Dexter's Lab" or "Jimmy Neutron"—a boy genius with an intellect far, far in advance of his years. You learn just how smart he is when the boy receives a call from the Smithsonian Institution. It seems that the kid has received the very prestigious Baird Award for ingenuity and inventiveness. However, the folks have no idea T.S. is a child and naturally think he's an adult. After all, he's invented an amazing machine to demonstrate perpetual motion. When they invite T.S. to come to Washington to receive the award, he does something very strange—he accepts and never tells his parents. Instead, he treks from Montana to Washington! What's to become of this little prodigy? In addition to this main plot, there are subplots involving T.S.'s dead brother (who, oddly, appears to T.S. periodically throughout the film and has conversations with T.S.!) and his very quirky family.

This film has a somewhat slow and meandering pace that reminded me a bit of the recent Oscar-nominee, "Nebraska". Some may be put off my this or the strangeness of the characters, but to me this is what make this a wonderful and entertaining film. I appreciated the nice, low-key performance by Catlett and it's a nice testament to Jeunet that he was able to coax this out of the boy. Additionally, I really, really appreciated the uniqueness of the plot and way it was handled. Too often films seem awfully familiar, but this is certainly not the case with this nice film. Well worth seeing for audiences of all ages. This Jeunet film is much more normal than many of his films, but the style is definitely his. Additionally, like in so many of his films there is an appearance by Dominique Pinon—an actor that always seems to show up in Jeunet's movies. I appreciate this, as I have loved Pinon in many films —ranging from "Diva" to "Delicatessen".

Mcfarlanej 9 April 2014

It's easy to fall in love with this tale of the ingeniously, slightly magical story of The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet. The story is touching, and quite charismatic, and the little boy is presented as quite a believable genius. Without being presenting as being too intelligent or arrogant and thus putting the audience off. He's both intelligent and likable, and modest too. Whilst charming and witty it's not exactly funny. Then again it's not a comedy. Now this is not a bad thing, as the film works really well for it.

The film comes across as this little humble tale of something possibly real, and emotionally touching, whilst being both enlightening and saddening at times. Nothing like 'Home Alone' or any of those sorts of movies. It's just that I can see how to some, the film may be perceived as being somewhat bland, and in some ways yes, but for the most part no. You really will become greatly involved all the way throughout the movie. The cinematography is brilliant, as you would expect from Jean Pierre Jeunet, director of Amelie and Micmacs etc. It accompanies the magical style and point of view that T.S. Spivet holds, without overpowering the film as a whole. The screenplay is brilliant, really working off of the original books. In addition, every character feels essential. It doesn't waste time with characters unneeded, and feels much more compact for it. The story has many a twist and turn in store for you and will make you well up inside. The reason mainly being in the ending, where there is a major plot point, and we can feel every emotion possible from every single character, because by the end, you really have grown to love them. You've connected with them, and you feel for them. Slightly strange at times and brilliantly acted, to which, I see great things in-store for Kyle Catlett (T.S. Spivet). T.S. Spivet is definitely one to watch with the entire family. Prepare yourselves, hearts will be uplifted. There's only two flaws with this movie... some people may feel like it's not "entertaining" or "funny" enough, to which it's not supposed to be... It's touching, brilliant and a really adventure, (And do you know what, it's a little bit funny too). The second flaw, is that some of the characters are a little bit of a caricature, especially with the stereotypical police officer and Two Clouds just being thrown in for good measure, where they just act as fillers, however, as fillers go, they're still really good.

Final Grade: A-

Not quite Jeunet's best work, but it does the trick. Original and clever, and connects emotionally... and a little bit surreal. The Jean Pierre hat-trick has been successfully pulled off. A worthwhile watch.

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A_Different_Drummer 28 April 2016

Even seasoned reviewers will tell you, in confidence, that there are some films which should not be reviewed by conventional means. This is one of them.

I am guessing I have seen several dozen films that try in their own fashion to capture the essence, the nub, of what it is like to be a child in a world of adults.

This one succeeds and does so brilliantly.

It is not merely that writer/director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a craftsman of the highest order - I would happily stand in line to see his next film, whatever it may be -- or that the actors (including Helena Carter) are pitch perfect, it is the sum total of the experience that just grabs you from the first scene and holds you until the end.

Highly recommended.

clarkmick33 24 March 2015

The Young and Prodigious T.S Spivet is a breath of fresh Mid Western air among all the rubbish of cinema today. Its Charming without being overbearing, its smart without being technical and odd without being weird.

The cast do a really good job at acting and the playful (although unrealistic)characters are charming. The cinematography really explores small details as well as large. The props of vintage equipment and quirky items of the past will resonate with those who watch the film.

I think most people who see this film will leave feeling happier and will take note of the magic of life as T.S Spivet does. Its a pure escapist film. Watch and enjoy this little slice of movie magic with a with your favorite mug, blanket and good friend.

bremennews 20 November 2014

What a surprise to me- I was expecting another European artsy movie that does not go anywhere. I am European and generally sick of this kind of movies especially from France that bore me to tears. Instead I saw an entertaining movie, full of wonderful filmmaking, touching story and interesting characters. The story is told with an incredible focus on details and beautiful imagery. This is definitely an emotional story carried by kid actors that could have gone terribly wrong. For my taste Mr. Jeunet found a very tasteful way to direct the cast through the potential pitfalls of the story. The story is out there in a fantasy world combined with National Geographic Imagery- great combination. I am sure not for everyone but it worked for me. Chapeau monsieur Jeunet.

saschakrieger 5 August 2014

One might want to call this inevitable: that Jean-Pierre Jeunet, film's high priest of wild imagination, king of the bizarre and quirky, cinema's greatest child would end up making a film with a child protagonist. Jeunet found that protagonist in T.S. Spivet, the title character of Reif Larsen's best-selling novel about a boy burning with a passion for science, a keen observer of life with a strong will to leave his mark on the world and a dark secret. And even more so, he found him in Kyle Catlett, a small, frail blonde with piercing blue eyes, hesitant enthusiasm, an awake yet guarded mind, an infectious smile that is never sure of itself. For Catlett, Jeunet made the role younger, turning the book's twelve-year-old genius into an even more unlikely ten-year old through whose eyes he makes us see the world for those miraculous, mesmerizing, blissful 105 minutes.

And what a set of eyes they are: warm and loving, yet at the same time distant and objective, T.S. deconstructs the world in order to return it to order. As so often with Jeunet, he makes us look at the ordinary in an entirely new way. His hero's scientific glance transforms the everyday into miracles, makes the normal appear bizarre and vice versa. It is a look Jeunet had perfected in his masterpiece Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, better known shortly as Amélie. It is a world inhabited by quirky yet mostly lovable people: T.S.'s harassed mother (Helena Bonham Carter) who is obsessed with classifying insects, his quiet cowboy father Callum Keith Rennie, his entertainment addicted sister Gracie (Niamh Wilson). Jeunet paints them close to the caricaturesque, often adding an absurdist touch, a little too much color to make them appear brighter and clearer than life, only enhancing their humanity by turning the screw a little further.

Jeunet lets his hero narrate the story: how he, after his twin brother's fatal accident, sets out to improve the world through science, how he sets out to make his way to Washington, DC in order to pick up a prestigious science award. T.S.'s off voice provides distance, context, irony, humor – but above all imagination. Visually, Jeunet indulges in small imaginative transgressions of realism, giving the film a playful, exploratory feel that perfectly matches his protagonist. The borders between the real and the imagined are fluent, their realms overlapping rather than separated. The wideness of rural Montana is too beautiful to be true, it may be more a country of the mind, but for Jeunet this doesn't make it less real. For him, imagination is the true life force, what one can dream of must be true. So one might wonder that T.S. keeps encountering good and friendly and helpful people, meets little conflict and arrives safely and almost smoothly in Washington as if he was dreaming it. And maybe he is, maybe we are.

Just like every dream this one has to end. And so it does and the film fizzles out in a mixture of flashy media satire, crude anti-modernism and sentimental celebration of family values. The simple, somewhat quirky yet honest and lovable people on the one side, the falseness of the polished capitalist façade on the other. T.S., of course, returns into the loving arms of his family and escapes the cruel materialism of a world governed by fame, power and money. No doubt the end weakens the overall effect of the film – but cannot break it. For the power of human imagination it celebrates and visualizes, the playful anarchism it embodies, the shameless naïve opti

IndustriousAngel 8 August 2014

Jeunet is, for once, operating outside his usual "comfort zone" and that's not a bad thing at all. While I have come to love him for his unique style, quirky colours, sharp textures and character actors caught by fisheye lenses, sometimes it pays to do something a little more restricted. As a comparison, Lynch's "Straight Story" comes to mind - a director known for decidedly non-mainstream sensibilities shoots a "simple" road movie. And since "The Straight Story" is my favourite Lynch film, that's no small praise! Of course, there's some of Jeunet's trademark whimsical, playful optics on screen, but they never become mere gimmicks but always enhance the storytelling. And some - or probably all - of the most impactful scenes are really simple shots - no gimmicks, no gags, just faces and landscapes. While Jeunet's last, "Micmacs", lost itself a bit among all the optical fireworks and gags, this film here keeps it straight and focused and I liked it only the better for it. Also, the pace is much slower than usual (again, very like "The Straight Story") - most scenes are longer than strictly necessary, giving them time to settle in.

The weakest point may be the actors - the children are not as good as those in "City of lost Children", and most of the grown-ups are a bit one-dimensional. The nice exception being Helena Bonham-Carter who delivers a really fine performance, nuanced like you wouldn't have thought she still had it in her after all the hammed-up roles from the last years.

Overall, probably my second-favourite Jeunet film (have seen it only once at the moment, maybe I'll have to rewrite it a bit after more viewings), highly recommended - and I really hope he does some more "mainstream" projects like this where his playfulness doesn't drown the story!

johnnymurphy15 22 July 2014

I have never been much of a fan of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I find his films a bit too twee. At least with previous releases like Delicatessen and Amelie, they were interesting and fun, although never bowled over, but this film has very little to interest the viewer other than some nice visuals.

T.S Spivet (Kyle Catlett) is a young child prodigy who invents the perpetual motion engine. After a call from the Smithsonian museum claiming that he has won a major Baird prize, T.S leaves his humble ranch and journeys to New York to collect the prize. Over his journey, he ponders his eccentric family. His mother Dr Claire (Helena Bonham Carter) who studies insects is distant from her husband who is a cowboy. Also, he ponders the accidental death of his brother which he may or may not have been involved with and wonders if his dad cares about him.

When he arrives, he gets his prize and people start to exploit the fact he is a child. The artifice and manufactured emotions of television is explored not very well and the wonders of science and the potential of such a revolutionary invention is not really looked into. For a bright and quirky film, it really is dull and essentially nothing much happens. I think Jeunet spent too much time making the film look good. I read the writers said they could potentially have a hard time making Spivet's journey interesting as it does take up most of the film, but according to them, it turned out not to be the case. Oh how wrong they were!

See my Film Review Blog - www.projectionistreview.wordpress.com

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