Overview: A modern tale of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, a police officer and a ex-con relive their childhood adventures by attempting to pick up the search for a buried treasure they had abandoned years ago. Whitewater Films; 2016; Unrated; 94 minutes.
The Adventures of: Translating more as fan fiction and less as simply a modern update of the classic Mark Twain tales, Band of Robbers utilizes familiar character names and plot lines to tell the sometimes disjointed story of the sort of unlikely trouble Tom and Huck would find if they were plucked out of their novels and dropped in stereotypical small town America. Directors and writers Aaron and Adam Nee were inspired by more than just a famous American author, as both the vibe of the town and the demeanor of several of the characters, particularly the police officers, provide hints of familiarity reminiscent of the work of the Coen brothers, Fargo specifically. But regardless of the influence, it’s clear the two had nothing less than a blast creating this film.
We Are Who We Are: Tom, Huck, and their band of merry misfits prove to be blissfully clueless in their efforts to hunt down a lost treasure, disregarding minor roadblocks such as common sense and, you know, the law. The comedic elements in this film work best when they are self aware and, often times, self-deprecating. The racist tonality in Twain’s novels is brought to the forefront and made light of, most notably in the character of Injun Jo (known for scalping his enemies), who is brought from the pages to the screen by a white man who has adopted the nickname and dressed the part not because he is racist, but because he identifies with the culture and aesthetic.
Tom and Huck: Kyle Gallner portrays a semi-sympathetic Huckleberry Finn, his growth toward becoming a productive member of society stunted by the influence and adventure seeking seduction of his childhood best friend Tom Sawyer, played by Adam Nee. The dynamic between these two works for the most part, but some pacing issues and clunky scene progressions prevent much opportunity to flesh out their relationship or their character growth as individuals. But Gallner and Nee manage to channel the co-dependency and adolescent addiction to the adrenaline rush that defines these two iconic names.
The Band: Melissa Benoist takes a break from saving the world as Supergirl to bring us Becky Thatcher, the only character in this film who is genuinely trying to do the right thing. Becky is as ignorant as the rest of the town, but she at least has good intentions, and Benoist’s breezy, innocent ignorance is the most clever addition here. However, Hannibal Buress and Matthew Gray Gubler steal the show as Ben Rogers and Joe Harper, the two sidekicks who manage to simultaneously screw up every single instruction and deliver the funniest dialogue throughout the film.
Overall: Although often clumsy and out of sync, the brand of comedic twists on Twain’s famous literary figures and setting make Band of Robbers an adequate tale of fan fiction.
Featured Image: Whitewater Films