THE GREEN MILE
Review by Dave Smith
I've lost track of how many movies have been made from Stephen King novels. I didn't like most of them. I guess that's because I have a dislike for portrayals of the "supernatural". We have enough ordinary miracles happening in everyday life without having to fictionalize some kind of extraordinary power in a person. The Green Mile could have been a very good novel and movie without the supernatural element. In fact this element is it's real weakness. Despite a powerful performance by Michael Duncan as the miracle worker John Coffey, there is a tendency (when the "miracles" occur) to say, "Oh give me a break." In fact the audience present where I viewed this movie giggled when some of this was happening. I suspect there were even more who suppressed their giggles. Tom Hanks again is wonderfully believable in his role as Paul Edgecomb, the officer in charge of death row...better known as The Green Mile because the floor in that section of the prison just happens to be green. This film is certainly not without several excellent performances. In addition to Hanks and Duncan, Doug Hutchison as the weak, "mama's boy" prison guard with "connections" to higher authorities is magnificent. But tell me why did King have to give this guy the name, Percy Wetmore? Yes in one scene he does pee in his pants but couldn't King come up with a less obvious moniker? Veteran actor Dabbs Greer plays Hanks as an old man which is not too difficult for Greer since he is 82 years old. A lot of people watching this film will recognize Greer but won't be able to place him. I'll save you that anquish. You probably first saw Greer as the Storekeeper on Gunsmoke. If not there, you might have seen him as the Reverend Robert Alden on Little House on the Prairie. Greer has also had a very active movie career.
You might be interested to know this film utilizes a lot of old pop music. It's supposed to take place in the forties. That's why Director Frank Darabont asked Hanks to put on some weight for this film. As Darabont explains it, "This was in the forties where everyone ate fried baloney." Some of the forties music uses old recordings made by such forgotten artists as Gene Austin singing "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?" Austin's career goes back to the thirties. But another artist we don't hear much is Eddy Howard. Eddy had his own orchestra and a beautiful tenor voice. He frequently sang with a trio. Three of Howard's recordings are featured in the film, not the least of which is the great "Stardust." You may remember Nora Ephron used Nat King Cole's recording of "Stardust" in the Hanks movie, Sleepless in Seattle. Does Hanks request "Stardust" in his films? Does he request old buddy Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan) from Forrest Gump or Barry Pepper (Pvt. Jackson) from Saving Private Ryan? No matter, these are excellent actors and the choice of music is in keeping with the times and a reminder of how music used to be when melody was king and lyrics really meant something. "The Green Mile" is an entertaining, well-produced, well-acted film. If it just didn't have all that hocus-pocus junk!