This new adaptation of Thomas Hughes' famous novel tells the tale of a young boy's courage in the face of vicious bullying. Set in Rugby Public School during the mid-1800s, the eponymous Tom transforms from timid, homesick... more » schoolboy to courageous student as he learns to confront his fears, stand up for his friends, and hurdle the obstacles of adolescence.« less
Dorothy M. from FEDERAL WAY, WA Reviewed on 2/1/2018...
5 stars. It is not only a good story, but also a picture of life in British schools of the time. All the actors, including a young Alex Pettyfer, did very well with their roles.
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Not a mini-series but a mini-version of Thomas Hughes' schoo
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Tom Brown's Schooldays" was originally published in 1857. Thomas Hughes had attended Rugby School, an English public school for boys from 1834 to 1842, but it seems the title character was based on his older brother George. The book is considered the first in the genre of school novels, spawning a host of imitations during the Victorian era, the most successful of which would be the Harry Potter novels of the 21st century. The BBC did a mini-series version of "Tom Brown's Schooldays" in 1972, where as this 2005 television adaptation by ITV runs only 93 minutes. I was going to say that this was by far the shortest BBC literary adaptation I had ever seen, but it turns out it was by ITV.
The relative short length of this production is especially interesting since it omits the chapters at the start of the novel dealing with the childhood of Tom Brown in his home in the Vale of White Horse. There young Tom spends days riding his pony and leading a happy, carefree existence, before being sent to the living hell of his schooldays. Instead, the script by Ashley Pharoah takes the two major stories that make up the actual school days, Tom being bullied by Flashman and Tom being told by Dr. Arnold to look after young George Arthur, and weaves them together instead of having them comprise separate parts of the story. So in this version Tom Brown (Alex Pettyfer) shows up at Rugby School and immediately becomes the target for the bullying Flashman (Joseph Beattie, and, yes, this is the character that George MacDonald Fraser made the "hero" of his "Flashman" historical novels). Meanwhile, headmaster Dr. Thomas Arnold (Stephen Fry) is trying to reform the rowdy school into a more Christian place, insisting that he will take the students at their word, just like he would a grown man, a policy that Flashman will sorely put to the test.
The conflict between Tom and Flashman is at the heart of this version, featuring an escalation of effronteries by the older boy that exceed what is in the novel. Flashman's big crime in the novel was to get exceedingly drunk, and Pharoah's script comes up with bigger and badder things in this version to expedite the villain's demise. The problem is that while I like the way the script makes Flashman's bullying a lot more threatening to a contemporary audience, the twist regarding George Arthur (Harry Smith) changes the ending way too much. Instead of thinking of the lessons that young Tom Brown has learned from his schooldays, I am watching the final credits wondering if this is supposed to be an implicit rejection of George Arthur's Christian idealism. Just because I appreciated some of the major changes in the story does not mean that I do not think there are certain lines you should not be crossing over, and I have to round down because of the line this one crosses at the end.
Young Pettyfer does not have to do much as Tom beyond reacting to the indignities heaped upon him by Flashman and the others and coming to the defense of Tadpole (Dane Carter) and other younger classmates who are the prey of the older bullies. Beattie plays Flashman with great relish, both when he is bullying the little boys and when he lies right to the face of Dr. Arnold. The key performance is that of Fry, who does a nice job of playing restrained anger when he finally lowers the boom on Flashman. My favorite scene is when the good doctor learns a lesson in irony as to what happens when you believe a liar and do not believe someone who is telling you the truth. But primarily "Tom Brown's Schooldays" is about a bully getting what is coming to him, and I hope the kid who terrorized my life when I was the same age as Tom got his own comeuppance sooner or later. At the very least, I would like to believe that Hughes is completely right on that score."
Best version yet
R. House | Topeka, KS | 04/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen all the versions available of this story, and feel that this is the finest version yet produced. I enjoyed it much more than the BBC "Materpiece Theatre" series which is much longer. Usually, I prefer a more detailed story, but something did not appeal to me with the "Masterpiece" version. I have a DVD copy from England acted by John Howard Davies & Robert Newton. This is the highly acclaimed version by most from 1951. I guess the appealing qualities about the newest version are the music and filming, and most of all, the acting done by Alex Pettyfer (Tom), Stephen Fry (Dr. Arnold) and Joseph Beattie (Flashman). Supporting roles by Dane Carter (Tadpole) and Harry Michell (East) are also excellent. I recommend this new edition to all interested, especially over the 1971 "Masterpiece Theatre" version."
Randall C. Woltz | 07/31/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very well made film and probably historically correct as far as the private (public) school system was concerned but it is hard to watch the cruelty and brutality towards the younger boys. Alex Pettyfer is excellent as the young Tom Brown but he is continually "beat up" by the system of older sadistic students and disconnected teachers. He does stand up to it all and triumphs at the end, but at what cost? The saddest was the torture of a sensitive new student who never really recovers. It reminded me too much of Junior High and what a scar it can leave on you. Historically correct but disturbing."
Not what we expected.
Mom and Teacher | Midwest USA | 11/08/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This story had a compelling plot and story development. I chose it for a family movie based on everything on the front and back jacket covers. The drama was intense and disturbing at times. There is slight nudity and some amount of mature theme. It is not rated, but it was not at all what I expected based on the information on the jacket. From other reviews I have now read, the movie is more extreme (than the actual book) in its display of the bullying which occurred in this school. Even though the main culprit does get asked to leave, you always get the feeling he is not punished enough and should have been punished as a criminal. I felt like I made a mistake in choosing it as a family film even though the story has some merit. For the most part, good triumphs over evil in the end. Our family felt like it should have been rated PG-13 due to some mature sexual content."
First-class treatment of a first-rate Victorian novel
The Bookworm Sailor | All at Sea | 09/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The story is well known: Rugby, a public school in the English midlands and where the game was invented, acquires a new headmaster in 1828: Dr Arnold managed single-handedly to change the way of life at boys' schools in the whole country. (To put this into context, these were the days when great social reforms were just beginning, with the abolition of slavery on the horizon and the first glimpses of "human rights".) When he arrived the masters were idle and often drunk, and the boys were left to develop without guidance or discipline which led to bullying - mental, physical and sexual - being the order of the day (remember the descent of the young into savagery in Lord of the Flies?).
This beautifully filmed and acted work conveys the life and hard times of Tom Brown and his battle against the principal school bully, the appalling Flashman (subject of a series of novels by George MacDonald Fraser 100 years later), mostly following the original novel. It well shows the tribal loyalties that prevent the boys from betraying their tormentors to the staff, and allows Tom's intelligence and innate decency to develop with the discreet but firm pressure from Dr Arnold who early recognises that Tom will be his best hope of an ally in his campaign to civilise the beasts. This by no means implies that Tom is a goody-goody: on the contrary, he gets into trouble quite often. I found this film to be satisfying and rather charming as a portrayal of Victorian toughness, while at the same time the sentimentality that was also very Victorian is given a brief airing with its treatment of the short life and death of a quiet child whose temperament is wholly out of step.
I cannot fault this film. But on no account should it be marketed as any kind of "coming of age" film, nor will there be anything to stir those who fancy boys or young men: it is a powerful statement about a period of educational and social reform which spread around the whole English-speaking world. "