Pros: Great acting from the adults
Cons: Story could have been fleshed out better
Im a little ashamed to admit I am finally seeing Disney's version of Pollyanna. See, the movie was partially filmed in my hometown. Growing up, I drove by the house used as Aunt Polly's home more times then I can count. Still, it was only as an adult that I got to see the film.
Pollyanna Whittier (Hayley Mills) has had a hard life. Her parents, who were missionaries, have recently died, so the little girl is sent to live with her aunt Polly (Jane Wyman), a woman she has never met before.
Polly is the only surviving adult heir of the Harrington family. As such, she is extremely rich. But she also has the responsibility of running the town, named Harrington after her family. With so many people depending on her, Polly has developed a pessimistic view on life. She does things out of duty, not because she wants to do them. In fact, when it comes to charity, she seems to resent it while insisting on giving whatever is needed.
Into this world comes Pollyanna. She is an optimist because of the way her parents raised her. Her father invented the "Glad Game." When Pollyanna starts to be overwhelmed by bad things, she looks for something to be glad about no matter the circumstances.
While Pollyanna's attitude has no effect on her aunt, it slowly begins to work on the town of Harrington. But can Pollyanna's attitude change the one person in town who needs it most?
The movie is entertaining. Maybe because I'm an adult, I got drawn into the politics in the town. I was actually more interested in that then in watching Pollyanna work her charm on the grumps in town. Still, there are some great scenes where Pollyanna wins over people the town has given up on, like the old hermit who lives on the edge of town or the town hypochondriac.
The story takes place in 1912. The movie does an excellent job of recreating small town life during the period with costumes and sets.
The biggest problem with the movie is the pacing. The director wanted to cut 20 minutes of the film, but Walt Disney overruled him. While I don't know for sure what they were, I can think of a few scenes that were overlong and slowed down the story. Maybe if I had seen this as a kid I wouldn't mind, but as an adult, I found myself watching the clock at times to see how much longer the movie would run.
Another problem I had was Aunt Polly's back story. The movie hints about things that helped make her the woman we see, but they are never explained. A few more scenes spent developing her would go a long way toward explaining her actions.
Add to that the climax. Instead of the ending being properly developed, the movie ends abruptly. I want to know what happened next. Still, I had come to care for the characters, so I was emotionally affected by the ending.
This movie was Hayley Mill's debut. While she is fine in the roll, she seems a bit wooden at times. The adults all do a fine job in the film. Jane Wyman does a great job in the role of Aunt Polly. I had the most fun watching Agnes Moorehead of Bewitched fame. Her portrayal of hypochondriac Mrs. Snow is downright hilarious.
But I bet you're wondering about my title. During the opening credits, there is a scene of a bunch of boys swimming. One of them is swinging on a rope into the water. If you're paying attention, you can tell he's naked. This shocked me so much I ran the DVD back and watched it again. Considering the time the movie is set, it is accurate and completely innocent. I was just shocked to see it.
Despite my complaints, I did enjoy the movie. If you and your kids haven't seen it, it is worth watching once. However, Disney has released better films over the years.