TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN, the late '90s adaptation of a classic children's novel of the 1950s written by Philippa Pearce, is a passable slice of entertainment that has both good and bad elements to recommend it. While it's entertaining enough as the story progresses, I couldn't help being disappointed in its failure to capture the magical qualities of the written story, which make it one of my favourite children's books of all time.
One of the problems is writerdirector Willard Carroll's Americanisation of the material. This is quite subtle for the most part, but Carroll is far too obsessed with cheesy, computer-based special effects over story. Thus we get the ridiculous scene of Tom opening and closing the door and watching the furniture change over and over again, which is as redundant as it is silly. Less effects and tighter storytelling would have been the obvious choice here.
Still, the film looks the part, and the design of the titular garden is particularly strong. The young actress who plays Hattie gives the best performance in the whole thing, while Prince William-lookalike Anthony Way is adequate as Tom. There's a good eye for the supporting cast, which includes nice, if minor, roles for David Bradley and Liz Smith and an alluring turn from Greta Scacchi.
Sadly I did find that the story started to lose me as it progressed, and the last third is noticeably weaker than the preceding two. It happens when Hattie starts to grow up; scenes which should be poignant and heartbreaking are anything but, and I think that's a problem both with Way's acting and the deficiencies of the script. The added, present-day wraparound material (which wasn't in the book) is also unnecessary and distracting.
For me, the definitive version of the story is the BBC miniseries of 1989, which haunted and spellbound me as a child in equal measure.
Review by Leofwine_draca from the Internet Movie Database.