Picks and Pans Review: The Education of Little Tree

updated 12/15/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/15/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Joseph Ashton, James Cromwell, Tantoo Cardinal

In 1935, Little Tree (Ashton), a poor orphan boy, is sent to live with his mother's parents (Cromwell and Cardinal) in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. His grandmother, a Cherokee, instructs Little Tree in the details of what she refers to as "the way," a mystical understanding of the soul's place in nature. When welfare workers take Little Tree off to a boarding school of Dickensian nastiness, he learns some harsher truths about intolerance. This poky, preachy family picture, opening Dec. 25, is based on a posthumous 1986 bestseller whose author, Forrest Carter, has since been revealed as Asa Carter, a Klansman who wrote speeches for George Wallace. Little Tree, in short, has very strange roots. (PG)

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