Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
As anyone who's listened to Movie Magazine since 1991 knows, tiggers love honey about as much as Monica loves holidays, which is to say not at all. Even the isolated flicker of fun I've experienced over the years has been ruined by folks who thought it was a kindness to reconstruct my memories for me by letting me know that they never had a flicker of fun, ever. So, as much as I can, I hibernate like Yogi Bear in Jellystone Park for the last eight weeks of every year. Unlike Yogi, I rent videos, up to six a day, & every once in a while, I discover a genuine treasure. David Wellington's "Restless Spirits," written by Gail Collins & Semi Chellas, is such a gem.
It won a much-deserved jury award certificate of merit at 1999's International Children's Film Festival & it stars the wonderfully talented Juliana Wimbles in the central role of Katie, a twelve-year-old girl who's recovering from the loss of her aviator father. Her mother Charlotte (a nearly unrecognizable Leslie Hope from 1994's "Fun" is about to pack Katie & little brother Simon (Nickolas Swan) off to her mother-in-law's house in Canada while she cultivates a new romantic attachment in Europe. Grandma Lydia is the great Marsha Mason, who barely knows the kids or what they're like. The only girls in the neighborhood are Stacey & Rhonda (Brittany Allen & Lauren Collins) who can't stand Katie & vice-a versa. This leaves Katie & Simon with a lot of time on their hands & sure, enough, Simon nearly drowns in a shallow pond the first time they wander into the woods together. This is how we discover that Katie is psychic, which is the only possible explanation for how she can see two male ghosts hanging around the pond when no one else can. It turns out that the ghosts belong to an actual pair of dead French aviators who may or may not have made a transatlantic flight two weeks before Charles Lindbergh did on May 20 & 21, 1927. Charles Nungesser & Francois Coli (beautifully played Lothaire Bluteau & Michel Monty) have been the source of considerable speculation since l'Oiseau Blanc, their Levasseur plane, vanished on May 8, 1927. After a 1984 investigation, the government issued a report that claimed that Nungesser & Coli had very likely succeeded in reaching North America from Paris well before Lindbergh reached Paris from New York. "Restless Spirits" intriguingly blends fact & fiction to heal Katie's broken heart & to resolve the ghosts' dilemma. Help is supplied by neighbor Andy (Ben Cook), who's far better natured than his two sisters & hindered by two archeologists (Dan Lett & James Allodi as Frears & Hindle) trying to unravel the unsolved mystery of l'Oiseau Blanc's doomed flight.
Nungesser's life story would make a terrific movie some day: handsome as a movie star & totally nuts, he continued to fly despite a list of injuries that would have grounded any sane aviator. Until then, "Restless Spirits" succeeds admirably in grabbing the attention of adolescent audiences, & at least one adult viewer in need of fun on a cold November night in San Francisco.
© 1999 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 11/24/99
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