film 7 of 7

John Henry

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 16, 2015

A big Disney budget makes this a bit unfair to the virtuous, underfunded opposition, but sometimes Disney resources, plied with artistry they can also and often muster, makes that point moot. A striking quilt/oral history opening foregrounds the common man components of the tale, and plants seeds for a good tall tale discussion. In this telling we are shifted away from industrialization toward issues of labour and justice—a very valid liberty. (Or, given Carl Sandburg’s version of the song—that skips the hammer and dwells on all of the protagonist’s illicit affairs—most any liberty is in play with such anonymous origin folk tales.) The female protagonist and her narration actually and substantially bring us to genealogy. As to that, this version is also very good on loss, mourning, and healthily carrying on. Analogue bonus, or maybe, at least, a faux-analogue bonus: they leave the sketch lines in. And the music is pretty palpably made by real people, on real instruments. Excellent!