Elden Henson, Kieran Culkin, ...


The surest sign that Miramax has become a major studio is that it’s willing to produce a movie as phony and pseudo- inspirational as “The Mighty.” The film tells the story of two junior-high outcasts, but nothing in their friendship seems to have any connection to real experience; it’s all sticky and contrived only-in-the-movies claptrap. Maxwell (Elden Henson), who sports a buzz cut and a face full of fear, is a morose hulk of an underachiever who looks like a teen version of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Private Pyle in “Full Metal Jacket.” Kevin (Kieran Culkin), his opposite number, is a shrimpy, ebullient whiz kid who hobbles around on a pair of Tiny Tim crutches, the victim of a rare degenerative medical condition.

Stationing himself atop the bigger boy’s shoulders (just like Master-Blaster in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”), Kevin becomes the brain to Maxwell’s brawn. Together, they fight off local punks, engage in such knightly “quests” as rescuing a woman’s purse from a sewer, and finally face tests of fortitude (evil dad sprung from prison, etc.) that exist only in badly plotted sentimental melodramas. Culkin is just cloying and precocious enough to make you long for his brother Macaulay’s restraint, and Sharon Stone, as Kevin’s mom, does almost too perfect a job of projecting respectability and “goodness.” You forget she was ever a sex goddess — or, for that matter, a charismatic actress.

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