After all the pop-culture chatterboxing she has to do every week on ”Gilmore Girls,” Alexis Bledel must have felt relieved to don a long, frilly dress and ease into the leisurely, early-1900s fantasy of Tuck Everlasting, a dreamy adaptation of Natalie Babbitt’s cherished 1975 children’s novel. The book is a clever variation on the fountain-of-youth myth, with a wilderness family named Tuck (Sissy Spacek and William Hurt play the parents) who’ve lapped at a life-extending pond and discovered the joy and pain of immortality.
Bledel’s Winnie, a spunky girl with emotionally shut-down parents (Victor Garber and Amy Irving), stumbles upon both the magical water and the Tucks’ teen son, Jesse (Jonathan Jackson, who never seems more than a 21st-century pinup). Bledel uses her expressive murmur to make poignant her crush on a boy who’ll never age, and widens her blueberry eyes in the presence of the piece’s villain, who wants to become rich charging people for sips. (He’s played by Ben Kingsley, with more wit and understatement than his Ozzy Osbourne-ish wig and garish yellow suit.) Any movie that signals the menace of a potential lynching by zooming its camera through the loop of a gallows noose cannot claim subtlety, but director Jay Russell (”My Dog Skip”) never lets the swirling emotions of ”Tuck” become too drippy.