‘Thank you for your childhood,” says the Chief Elder to each graduating 16-year-old. In this society, that’s not as weird as it sounds; all children who reach 16 are given life assignments and launched into adulthood at a public ceremony.
Childhood’s end, indeed. “The Giver” tells the tale of one such teen, Jonas (played by Brenton Thwaites), chosen for a very special role on assignment day. He will be the new Receiver of Memories, a singular and mysterious job that sets him apart from everybody else in this isolated, placid world.
For reasons we don’t know, this slice of humanity has embraced “sameness” as its motto. The voluntarily tranquilized population is white, polite, and always truthful. If everyone is just the same, with limited emotional range and no ambitions, they will all get along together.
That explains why we view this world in black-and-white. Odd thing is, Jonah keeps seeing flashes of color.
Jonah will be instructed by the current Receiver of Memories (Jeff Bridges), now known as the Giver. He has the ability to instill flashbacks of the past world of violence, pain, love. He doesn’t flash back to “Logan’s Run,” or movies with similarly dystopian ideas. But I did.
The Giver conveys things in color — but what will all this do to Jonah’s loyalty to the bland society? How can he not tell his best buds (Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan) about the exciting visions he’s seen?
This is a pretty neat set-up, courtesy Lois Lowry’s 1993 Newberry Award-winning Young Adult novel. There are some ludicrous plot points (including some nonsense about a boundary line that will play the crucial role in the climax), but at least this world is intriguing to imagine.
And the Chief Elder is played by Meryl Streep, which ain’t a bad thing. Bridges has the chewier role, although he has adopted a curious, strangled voice for this part.
Still, the promise doesn’t pan out. The opening reel is incredibly rushed, as though the editor had been told to cut out the pauses that make dialogue scenes interesting.
At 94 minutes, there’s little chance to dig into the characters, including Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard as Jonah’s family unit. Director Phillip Noyce (“Salt”) is usually a steady hand with the thinking person’s action film, but this one has a hard time finding its footing.
Everybody’s on the hunt for the next “Hunger Games” movie franchise. This doesn’t feel like it.
“The Giver” 2 ½ stars
A too-fast-moving adaptation of Lois Lowry’s novel about a chosen one (Brenton Thwaites) in an isolated, tranquilized society where sameness is encouraged. Interesting set-up, but the movie has a hard time finding its footing, despite the classy presence of Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.
Rating: PG-13, for violence, subject matter
Showing: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.