The Wizard Of Loneliness

Lukas Haas stars as a 12-year-old boy sent to live with his grandparents in Vermont during World War II, after his mother dies and his father joins the army. This is the third adaptation of a John Nichols novel (after The Sterile Cuckoo and The Milagro Beanfield War); Nancy Larson scripted, and Jenny Bowen directed. What appears to be a very careful and conscientious adaptation is enhanced by location shooting and able performances (John Randolph is especially good as the grandfather, and Haas certainly holds his own as the lead), but the overall focusan alienated, morbid, and bookish boy gradually comes to accept and cherish the humanity of those around himnever strays very far from the obvious. When the film tries for something more, in the deranged character of Duffy (Dylan Baker), the overall American Playhouse ambience proves to be more of a hindrance. Bowen’s direction is thoughtful and often affecting, but it never digs very deeply, and there are moments when one can almost see the chalk marks in the calculated staging. With Lea Thompson. (JR)

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