The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (3 stars)

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet

Offbeat adventure packed with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's trademark crazy energy and visual splendour

(12A) 104min

Its title of The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet may be a bit of a mouthful, but this latest effort from French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is still packed tight with his usual crazy energy. His first English-language effort since the rather disastrous Alien: Resurrection back in 1997, it’s also his first movie in 3D – a method that seems made for Jeunet’s visually splendid films (indeed, so eye-popping are his movies normally, you wonder why he bothered).

Based on the novel by Reif Larsen, it’s also Jeunet’s first movie set in the United States and his first aimed at the younger market. Despite all these debuts, there can be no mistaking this as anything but a Jeunet film, with its multicoloured palette and its bountiful inventions. No wonder Jeunet was drawn to the titular young boy (played by Kyle Catlett) at the heart of the story, a would-be inventor who has managed to conjure up a perpetual motion machine.

Living on an isolated Midwest ranch with his rather preoccupied family – including his entomologist mother (Helena Bonham Carter) – T.S. gets a call from Judy Davis’ publicity-hungry suit at the Smithsonian museum, proclaiming his invention is to be recognised. Neglecting to tell them he’s still only a child, T.S. packs his bag and hops on the nearest train to Washington, also failing to tell his parents where he’s going.

So begins his awfully big adventure, one that Jeunet delights in, even if the emotional impact of T.S.’s backstory (involving his twin brother) never quite hits home. Where the film may run aground is finding its audience. Too dark for little ’uns, too twee for teens, that only leaves adults. Jeunet fans will surely lap it up, particularly those who loved his 2001 standout movie Amélie, but others may find it all a bit much.

General release from Fri 13 Jun.

The Young and Prodigious T S Spivet trailer (2013)

The Young and Prodigious T S Spivet

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • France / Canada
  • 1h 45min
  • Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Written by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  • Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Robert Maillet, Callum Keith Rennie
  • UK release: 13 June 2014

A ten-year-old prodigy secretly hitches a ride on a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian for his cartography work.