Picks and Pans Review: The War

updated 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

Elijah Wood, Kevin Costner

Anyone with a lot of patience and 2 hours to kill can probably ferret out the Vietnam War parable in this overwrought sub-Gump southern melodrama. But the most satisfaction the movie offers is the spectacular acting of Wood, 13, who is the best under-20 actor since Freddie Bartholomew.

As the beleaguered son of an underemployed Mississippi Vietnam veteran (Costner) beset with post-traumatic stress syndrome, Wood not only says his own pathos-burdened lines with conviction, he listens to the other performers and reacts with a thoughtful-ness most adult actors should envy.

Costner, meanwhile, is having his usual accent trouble, drifting in and out of a restrained drawl but never ceasing to be as sincere as all get-out in trying to dissuade Wood and Lexi Randall, as his sister, from violence.

The children, nevertheless, are sorely tempted to retaliate against a neighboring brood of redneck bullies who covet a treehouse built by Wood, Randall and their pals.

Writer Kathy McWorter and director John Avnet overplot like crazy and pointlessly reopen those old Vietnam wounds. They trash southern Americans and strew around enough vapid aphorisms to make Forrest Gump seem like Aristotle. Then again, movies are like a box of chocolates: you never know when you will find one that's totally hollow. (PG-13)

From Our Partners