By Don Simpson | November 16, 2009
Director: Tim McCanlies
Writer(s): Watt Key (novel, screenplay)
Starring: Jimmy Bennett, Gabriel Basso, Uriah Shelton, Clint Howard
Moon (Jimmy Bennett) and his Pap (J.D. Evermore) are living the Libertarian dream – Ayn Rand and Ron Paul would be proud of this duo – illegally homesteading in the backcountry of rural Alabama. Pap raises Moon to never trust anyone, especially the government. That’s all well and good until Pap dies, leaving eleven year old Moon all alone in the wilderness.
Moon opts to foot it towards Alaska (the Libertarian, survivalist and secessionist Mecca). It is not long before the local constable (Clint Howard) – who must have learned everything he knows about policing from Roscoe P. Coltrane – and his hound dog are hot on Moon’s trail. Moon is apprehended and sent to a boy’s prison called Pinson, but his inner wild child cannot be held by any cage. Moon easily escapes Pinson (with 30 or so others), and he hides out in the national forest with new-found friends Hal (Gabriel Basso) and Kit (Uriah Shelton).
The owner of the privately-owned prison (the Boss Hogg of this tale) pays the local constable to hunt down the elusive Moon, but Moon (like any good Duke would) repeatedly outfoxes him. The frustrated constable spins an elaborate web of lies about Moon which eventually leads to a showdown in the courtroom with Mr. Wellington (John Goodman) – a land developer who assisted in Moon’s initial capture – acting as Moon’s lawyer.
Director Tim McCanlies turns what could have been a hokey children’s movie into a rich and emotionally deep (read: total tearjerker) philosophical essay on human existence ala Into the Wild. Based on Watt Key’s children’s novel (Key also wrote this screenplay), Alabama Moon tackles some very mature themes – death, for one, surrounds Moon.
Moon realizes that to survive in the modern civilized world he first must eschew his Pap’s survivalist perspective (the only philosophy he has ever known). Despite having really only ever known his Pap and mother, Moon quickly learns that friendship and socializing are key elements of personal development and existence.