Review 'Noordhollands Dagblad'
Translated by Marina Kahlmann
Twins in scary conspiracy
For ever youth films have been made in The Netherlands but their current popularity is mostly caused by the increase of production quality and more playful and original formulas. If one film can be called a trend setter it is 'Long Live the Queen', director Esmee Lammers' debut from 1997.
With that in mind, Lammers second film, 'Tom and Thomas', gives rise to mixed feelings. Lammers has become stronger as a director, but has lost originality as scenario writer. 'Tom and Thomas' is about two nine year old boys who live in London. Tom lives in an orphanage, Thomas lives with his father, an painter who still very much mourns the loss of his deceased wife. Thomas shows loss of concentration in school. This particularly happens when an unknown other boy (Tom) gets into sticky situations. Tom has accidentally seen the caretaker of the orphanage engage in kidnap together with a dangerous man. The villains realise Tom has seen them and try to catch him. When Tom and Thomas accidentally meet and see they look exactly alike, friendship is soon established. Tom secretly lives in Thomas's house, which causes many misunderstandings. But the villains are still busy. They get their hands on Tom, drug him, and are on the verge of smuggling him out of the country when the film comes to a finale at the airport. The epilogue shows that the two boys are genuine twins, separated at birth.
In a technical view we are dealing with a piece of work, which easily adheres to international standards. Tom and Thomas is well made and looks rich. The double role for young actor Aaron Johnson makes excellent use of special effects. It is disappointing that Esmee Lammers' story has so little character of its own. Wandering orphans in the snow at Cristmas, that already was a gigantic kitsch-cliche when two years ago the film 'Kruimeltje' appeared. It has to stop sometime but Lammers uses it again. The situation is worse with the main theme. Tom and Thomas is mostly made with British actors (dubbed for the Dutch version) and therefore seems aimed at the English language market. This already had absorbed two versions of 'The Parent Trap', one very recently. Right before that was 'It Takes Two'.
What makes Tom and Thomas stand out from other movies is a far less playful, even grim tone. The villains the boys have to deal with are scarier than one would expect in a children's movie. And their conspiracy is also unusually sinister. In the centre of London they are using large syringes, drugging children which are then transported to Nairobi to be 'adopted'. What is one to imagine when nine year old boys are concerned? Even the finale is grim when a Boeing leaves with Tom in the cargo hold, knocked out in a dog kennel next to a kicking horse. Thomas hides in the landing gear and is losing consciousness due to the icy cold. Since September 11 children could get all sort of associations in all those panic situations in the airport, amidst shooting and ambulances coming and going. Police teams running around with masks on and stenguns ready, just like the finale of 'Down' by Dick Maas. And as the name has fallen anyway, Maas, the life partner of Lammers, is credited as second unit director, but you get the feeling you run into him all through the movie. "Long Live the Queen' was far more charming.
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