13 December 2008 | aimless-46
Strictly for Zack and Cody Fans
This feature film, "A Modern Twain Story: "The Prince and the Pauper" (2007) stars the highly popular with pre-teens Sprouse twins, it went direct-to-DVD.
Updates of classic literature like this have become relatively common; "Emma" is adapted as "Clueless", "Othello" as "O", "Pygmalion" becomes ''She's All That'', Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" becomes "10 Things I Hate About You". "A Modern Twain Story: "The Prince and the Pauper" is a little more direct with its title, probably because so little of Twain's original story was incorporated into the movie that the producers felt they needed to alert the viewer that the classical connection was intentional. The original was set in 1547 and tells the story of two young boys who are identical in appearance: Tom Canty, a pauper who lives with his abusive father, and Prince Edward, son of Henry VIII of England.
If you are unfamiliar with Disney Channel superstars Cole and Dylan Sprouse (best known for "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" and its nautical spin-off) they are height challenged twin boys who seem like regular guys. Before you start thinking twin Gary Colemans, it is not that bad although their routines may have you thinking back to Arnold's zany antics on "Different Strokes".
The modern version of the "Prince and the Pauper" story utilizes original character names as Tom Canty (Dylan Sprouse) dreams of being an actor, but with both his parents dead he is being groomed to take over his grandfather's (played by Ed Lauter-basically his angry father role from "Girls Just Want to Have Fun") small landscaping company. Meanwhile, Eddie Tudor (Cole Sprouse) is a burnt out child star making his latest box-office blockbuster in a Palm Beach movie studio near Tom's house. Poor Eddie is neither happy nor particularly likable. One day Tom sneaks onto the Hollywood lot and the boys meet. You have to suspend disbelief here as they seem a bit under whelmed by the fact that they look exactly alike; the same goes for the inability of Tom's schoolmates and neighbors to notice his uncanny resemblance to a certain mega-star. The first thirty minutes of the film is pretty lame and it doesn't really start to engage you until the twins switch places.
Dylan and Cole are not exactly brimming over with acting for the camera skills and the script could use a lot of work. In fact the scene in which Cole is doing some imitations for his costar's amusement is so unintentionally bad that I actually felt embarrassed for the poor guy. And in general the weaker scenes are those involving just the twins.
But the basic premise is solid and there are some good supporting performances from Lauter, Sally Kellerman, and Vincent Spano (as Miles). You can see the ending coming but the "grass is always greener" theme is nicely showcased (insert 1987's "Overboard" here).
Kay Panabaker is featured on the promotional material but is virtually absent from the film. Buyers of the DVD will at least see more of her as she gets considerable screen time in the behind the scenes special feature.
Anyone interested in a good adaptation of Twain's book should seek out the hard-to-find three-part "Disneyland" production broadcast in March 1962 ("The Pauper King", "The Merciful Law of the King", "Long Live the Rightful King") in which Guy ("Zorro" and "Lost in Space") Williams played the Miles Hendon part. With a 150 minute running length it had time to do justice to the story.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.