The Giver (2014)

(On Cable TV, April 2015)  There’s been a recent glut of Young Adult Science Fiction movies adaptations lately, and while The Giver is of a slightly-older nineties-novel vintage than Divergent, The Hunger Games and its ilk, it has so many points of similarity that it courts generic repetitiveness.  Here again, we have a young person with singular talents discovering The Truth behind their too-perfect post-post-apocalyptic society, then rising up against the established order in order to upset the status quo.  Same story, same basic credibility problems, same obvious attempts to manipulate teenage audiences.  Not gaining points for originality, The Giver at least gets a few in terms of execution: there’s something cheap but interesting in the way the black-and-white of the film’s first few moments gradually lets color in, and director Philip Noyce is enough of a veteran to have a steady hand in presenting the action.  Still, that’s not quite enough to rescue The Giver from occasional ennui.  It’s not meant to be particularly smart.  Given the mediocre nature of its premise, it’s surprising to see an actress like Meryl Streep in a matriarch role, playing alongside Jeff Bridges (and Katie Holmes, and Taylor Swift in an unexpected small role).  Still, The Giver has the somewhat unusual daring to feature a baby in peril for a long while, and that baby upstages Streep every chance it gets –The Giver goes heavy on life-affirming clichés, but The Baby In Peril may raise the stakes a bit too high compared to the rest of the film.  Still, for all of its affirmed averageness, The Giver manages to score one or two good lines, plays with ideas without committing to them, and concludes on the kind of life-affirming notions that can mollify even the most bored reviewer. 

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