Movie review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

From the July 19, 2012 edition

Hitting Columbus theaters the same weekend as the biggest movie of the year, it’s tough not to root for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” as the Little Movie That Could.

Shot in Louisiana with largely non-professional actors, “Beasts” feels unlike any other movie you will likely see this year. Right in the middle of the carefully crafted blockbusters, it seems almost organic.

After “Beasts” took major film festivals by storm (literally and figuratively), it’s worth all the art-house hype.

It’s set in The Bathtub, a flood-weary chunk of Southern coastal land where life is tough but residents feel a deep attachment to their homeland.

Our heroine is Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), a wild-maned 6-year-old with boundless spunk. She lives with her daddy, Wink (Dwight Henry), who practices a love as tough as their life. When a fierce storm blasts the area, that life gets even tougher.

First-time director Benh Zeitlin wrings something glorious from a small budget — an imaginative world that pops and crackles. “Beasts” is a tonal movie and some may be put off by plot that doesn’t peak when you expect it to, but it’s a crisp 91 minutes.

Young Wallis is a revelation as the star (and narrator). She matches the film’s raw energy and verve.

“Beasts” is a triumph of sheer spirit. And a big budget can’t buy that.