According to a Native American legend a red fern grew between the bodies of two dead Natives as they froze in a snowstorm. The fern which grew between them was a representation of love and devotion. The manner in which this myth encapsulates this tragedy is the same fashion in which “Where the Red Fern Grows” captures the essence of growing into adulthood.
Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression in a small New England town, a young man named Billy has only one desire: to own a pair of Redbone Hound Dogs. Used for hunting and companions the dogs are prized for their ability to seek out raccoons. Being of rural origin and seeing everyone around him possessing such creatures, Billy embarks upon a quest to save up the lofty total to purchase a pair of such hounds.
Saving up all throughout the seasons Billy eventually raises the money. Upon buying the hounds the journey of his life thrusts itself upon him where Billy is forced to learn the true meaning of maturity as he grapples with morally upright behavior, healthy competition, and even death. What once began as a simple wish blossoms into a stupendous relationship between boy and animal that transcends the norms of loyalty and evolves into the true meaning of courage.
Needless to say the story is one of touching depths. Harkening back to the mythical time in American history where respect and honor where mainstays the plot beseeches the audience to do the right thing. Billy is a bastion of old-timey morality amidst a backdrop of city-slicker corruption.
To this end the story presented will leave an impact on anyone below the age of twelve. Family friendly to the end, lacking in blood and gore as well as crude language, one can tell it is an old movie for the sheer amount of conservative talking-points presented. Yet the direction is good: while it is of average length-96 minutes-the run-time feels much longer as the director was able to squeeze in what must have been a great deal of the book’s primary points into the film.
This is not to say there are no faults. While the thread is crammed with details it can sometimes seem ponderous. To this point the music isn’t helping any as well; what I mean here is that expect several songs to be blaring which must be decades old, personally I felt the combination of these two factors to exacerbate the faults. For me it was a bit much. This resulted in me rolling my eyes and wishing the sequence would be over. Regardless of musical choices, however, the actors perform ably and well.
I cannot say “Where the Red Fern Grows” is a film I will be watching over and over again but it is a film that will make you appreciate the stern messages contained within about hard-work, proper social interactions, and pro-family overtones. So while some would argue against its classical vibe I say it is dandy just the way it is.