This treacly Depression-era period piece nonetheless tugs the heartstrings and is recommended for enthusiasts of The Family Channel. In its favor is a steel story-spine concerning the subjects of parental loss and the helplessness of orphans in determining their own fates.
Impoverished but proud, the Murphy family deals together with life's vicissitudes until the day a freak fire caused by a gas jet wipes out the parents. Due to a death-bed promise to his pa, older Murphy brother Michael (Will Ester) assumes responsibility for younger sibling John (Keegan MacIntosh)
even as they come to grips with orphanage regulations. Despite assurances from parish priest Father Tierney (Robert Prosky) and foundling home manager Sister Elizabeth (Sheila Patterson), John is removed without Michael's knowledge and adopted by a high-strung society woman, Mrs. Bastian (Dee
Unable to dismiss his late father's final request, Michael engineers John's kidnapping with the aid of fellow orphan Clay Berry (Robin Dunne), who gets caught during a railyard escape. As if guided by Providence, Michael and John wriggle out of a police dragnet and elude gung-ho detective Merrimam
(Charles Martin Smith) hired by Mrs. Bastian. Shown the ropes of the open road by sympathetic hobos led by The Duke (Danny Aiello), the brothers embark on an impossible scheme Michael has been hatching since Clay Berry put the bug in his ear: to reach Father Flanagan (Mickey Rooney) cross-country
at Boy's Town. En route to Omaha, the Murphy boys follow a circuitous route mapped out by the tramps to fool the police. Hidden by a boatsman, Mr. Davis (Kris Kristofferson), who ferries them across the Des Moines River, the fugitives are betrayed by a farmer after John comes down with a fever.
With the timely interference of the train bums who've criscrossed the USA, the boys near their goal; their grit finally convinces Mrs. Bastian to call off her child-hunt. Carrying his ill sibling into Boy's Town, Michael informs Father Flanagan, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."
A feel-good flick with that certain Hallmark Hall of Fame aura, THE ROAD HOME celebrates the human spirit as it travels long stretches of highway and miles of familiar plotting. With a regrettably soupy musical score, this minor film could leave cynics gagging for a burst of genuine pessimism. The
Robin Hood-ish band of merry rail-hoppers is just too cute for words. Although the screenplay and direction draw sufficient nail-biting gusto out of a quest we assume will end happily, the picture's real strength lies not in its ability to keep its storyline from flagging but in its bleak portrait
of some 1930s realities. Without overdoing the Dickensian aspects, the movie doesn't sugarcoat the predicament in which the parentless kids find themselves; the nun's decision to deny them a farewell seems a particularly cruel example of "doing what's best for a child."
Nostalgists will get misty-eyed over the astute casting of Mickey Rooney, who played a troubled lad in the 1938 BOY'S TOWN; his larger-than-life presence anchors the film. Also of note is the movie's portrayal of the wealthy villainess who appears initially to be a pampered bloodsucker purchasing
a child as a prop for a crumbling social facade--in this film, no one with money or power is perceived positively. However, for those predisposed to surrender to this domestic tearjerker's puppy-doggish charms, one question remains: Couldn't Father Flanagan and all his residents have sashayed into
town and given bedraggled Michael a hand carrying his brother? The entrance requirements for Boy's Town are tough indeed! (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: PG
- Review: This treacly Depression-era period piece nonetheless tugs the heartstrings and is recommended for enthusiasts of The Family Channel. In its favor is a steel story-spine concerning the subjects of parental loss and the helplessness of orphans in determining… (more)