The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1939)

Genres - Adventure, Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Comedy, Childhood Drama, Family-Oriented Adventure, Road Movie  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a good if not great adaptation of the Mark Twain classic. Part of the problem is simply that Hollywood in 1939 was not really ready to deal with the racial themes that permeate the book, although this Finn does make a game try. Still, it seems a little bit hamstrung by the need to preach tolerance while at the same time not offending southern theater owners, who often refused to play films that were too sympathetic to black characters. Another problem is the casting of the title role. While Mickey Rooney was probably the best choice available who was also a box-office name, he is not really an ideal Huck Finn. Rooney is the all-American boy, but even though he can be scruffy, he's too squeaky for Finn. And when given the chance to dress as a girl, he plays it like the kid vaudevillian he really is, rather than like a normal boy. That said, Rooney does keep the film lively, and he has a definite presence that works in the context of how the material has been adapted for the screen; if he is not ideal casting as Twain's Huck Finn, he's pretty ideal for MGM's Huck Finn. Children won't much care about this distinction; they'll simply enjoy his antics, the fast pace of the film, and the many amusing and touching episodes.