Peace Arch Entertainment // 2002 // 106 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // January 4th, 2010
Thomas (Aaron Johnson, Shanghai Knights) is a 9-year-old living in London with his widowed father (Sean Bean, Silent Hill), an artist. His imaginary friend is Tom, also played by Aaron Johnson.
Thomas' world is a tad downbeat -- Dad is obsessed with painting pictures of his late wife. He refuses to sell the paintings, and bill collectors are closing in. School is the usual pre-adolescent horror show, and all the kid wants to do is revel in his fantasies about Tom and go to the space museum.
On the other hand, Tom's world is a post-modern Dickensian playground filled with menacing, cane-wielding authority figures and blight. Tom is involved in an adventure: it seems the meanies at his school are kidnapping children, and only Tom is hip enough to realize what is happening to his missing schoolmates. Soon, Tom is being abused by a sadistic janitor and high-tailing it out, living as a fugitive on the streets of London.
Thomas visualizes all this, and actually feels Tom's pain -- every time our poor boy gets whacked (which is often), Tom cosmically experiences the blow. Is Thomas too involved with his imaginary friend...or is Tom more real, and connected, than anyone realizes?
The answer, which you discover pretty early on in Tom & Thomas, is that both boys are flesh and blood, and if you can't figure out their cosmic connection, then you're probably still puzzling over the fate of Lindsay Lohan's character(s) in I Know Who Killed Me. Yes, T & T are identical twin brothers separated at birth, with one T getting adopted by the erstwhile Mr. Bean and his doomed-to-die-young wife, and the other shuttled off to "The Institution," a bleak and dangerous place of snarling Dobermans and weak gruel. Eventually, the boys "meet cute" in a hall-of-mirrors exhibit at the self-same space museum, and Tom and Thomas go all Prince and Pauper on us, swapping identities and getting into all sorts of mischief. It's like The Parent Trap, only they're orphans.
But then Thomas (Bean's kid) finds himself in the clutches of the loons at "The Institution," and soon he's being shuttled off for Africa as part of an illegal child-selling ring (!). Not to worry, the baddies merely sell children to rich folks who, despite their wealth, can't adopt children legally and therefore are willing to settle for smart-mouthed pre-adolescent Brits. If only the real world were this dangerous...
Anyway, will Thomas find himself in the clutches of Brad and Angelina, doomed to a life of evading paparazzi and inheriting untold riches, or will Tom find a way to rescue his brother and return him to his about-to-be-foreclosed home?
Tom & Thomas is a kids' movie, though I'm not sure what kids would find this oddly toned tale enjoyable. It's a discordant, confusing slough, downbeat for a kids' film, and too simplistic to appeal to adults. The locations are nice, the actors are engaging -- including young Johnson, who plays many scenes with shot-from-behind doubles or "trick photography" versions of himself -- but the film never really comes together.
Part of the problem can be found in the rather jarring early scenes that hop between Tom's mundane middle-class life and Thomas' woeful world of the Institution. Since we aren't given sufficient introduction to either, it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, despite the different locales and costumes. Plus, we aren't sure if Tom is a real person or a figment, making it all the more difficult to follow.
The disc is a pretty lame affair, with a clean full-frame image and flat stereo sound. There are no extras other than a trailer, so I couldn't tell you any more about the inception of Tom & Thomas...or about Tom and Thomas.
Patient and sophisticated children might enjoy this -- it does become more rousing, if preposterous, at the end. Hard-bitten grownup types like me will likely be less interested in these shenanigans and at bit perplexed by the film's at once cavalier treatment of child smuggling and then overly horrific portrayal of villainous adults.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Peace Arch Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG