Based on Reif Larsen’s 2009 bestseller, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young and Prodigious TS Spivet combines the whimsical storytelling pleasures of his 2001 hit Amélie with the most gorgeously inventive use of 3D since Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Whether you find that prospect charming or alarming will be entirely a matter of taste.
In Jeunet’s earlier film, Audrey Tautou’s naïve heroine was childlike; played by Kyle Catlett, TS Spivet actually is a child. A 10-year-old scientific genius, he sets off alone from the Montana ranch where he has grown up amid a strenuously eccentric family – cowboy father (Callum Keith Rennie), entomologist mother (Helena Bonham Carter), sharpshooter twin brother (Jakob Davies) and fame-obsessed older sister Gracie (Niamh Wilson) – to travel to Washington to claim a prize from the Smithsonian museum for the perpetual-motion machine he has invented.
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As TS crosses the wide-open spaces of the US, Jeunet’s penchant for the quirky and cutesy will strike some viewers as teeth-grindingly twee. The narrative drags in places en route and is almost derailed by the appearance of Judy Davis’s painfully caricatured museum employee when TS arrives at his destination. But the film’s beautiful saturated colours and beguiling and witty use of 3D are a delight.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 105 mins. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.