'The Giver' review: Weighed down by its predecessors

+ -
Film Review The Giver

Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges in "The Giver." Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"The Giver," director Phillip Noyce's handsomely wrought take on Lois Lowry's bestseller, may suffer for sins not of its own making.

It's the latest in the long line of movies -- "The Hunger Games," "Divergent," "Ender's Game," "The Host," "How I Live Now" -- made from novels set in a dystopian future where a young person has heroism thrust upon their slim shoulders. So it's impossible to look at "The Giver" and not see it as a collection of cinematic spare parts and young-adult sci-fi cliches.

Yet, taken on its own, it's a well-made and effectively told morality tale, spiced with some absolutely beautiful moments. It becomes heavy-handed in its third act but even that is not enough to totally undermine its pleasures.

In this post-apocalyptic world, civilization has been reborn under the watchful eye of the Elders. Social and genetic engineering have removed all differences and there's no conflict; everyone lives in sterile, well-ordered peace.

Then along comes Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) who, like all others his age, will be assigned his life's profession. His friends, Fiona (Odeya Rush) and Asher (Cameron Monaghan), become a child-care nurturer and pilot, respectively, but Jonas is chosen to be a "receiver," selected to remember all of human history, well before this new society wiped everything clean.

His teacher is the Giver (Jeff Bridges) -- his predecessor -- who will pass along all of his knowledge. Nervous about the transition is the Chief Elder (a miscast Meryl Streep) because the last youngster chosen to be a receiver disappeared mysteriously.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Noyce exhibits a painterly eye as the film, paralleling Jonas' view of the world, moves from stark black-and-white to sepia-shaded tones to joyous color.

There are moments that echo such films as "Life of Pi" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," two other works where the individual undergoes a journey that makes him see the world in a new, color-saturated and life-affirming way.

Never mind that the theme has been rehashed many times before. Noyce proves that it's not always the story, it's the storyteller.

PLOT In a dystopian future, a young man has heroism thrust upon him.

RATING PG-13 (mature thematic imagery and some sci-fi action/violence)


CAST Brenton Thwaites, Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges


BOTTOM LINE Well-made, effectively told morality tale, but reminiscent of too many other young-adult movies.

Coming soon: Newsday's Entertainment newsletter, for the latest on celebs, TV, more.


Newsday.com now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: