Unless you enjoy spending your money on as much Tom Hanks as you can get, don’t pay the premium price for “News of the World.”
Released at the tail end of 2020 and now available on premium video-on-demand, “News of the World” is a classic Hollywood film, in as much as putting Hanks in a period drama constitutes “classic Hollywood” at this point. The actor is great in pretty much everything he does, but there’s not enough substance to make “News of the World” worth
It’s just a dry, bare bones story that can’t even manage to do much with its one unique idea.
Hanks plays Captain Kidd, a Civil War veteran in 1870s Texas who travels from town to town reading newspapers in town halls so that working class people can stay informed with the news of the country & world. While on the trail one day, Kidd comes across a young girl on the side of the road. She had been taken in by Native Americans after they killed her immigrant family, and then those Native Americans were killed by soldiers. So she’s a twice-over orphan who doesn’t speak English or know societal customs.
It falls to Kidd to travel hundreds of miles across Texas to deliver her to an aunt and uncle who probably barely remember her. And sure enough, Kidd has some of his own emotional baggage that needs to heal.
The problem with “News of the World” is that it does not have anything new or interesting to say. The story progresses about as predictably as possible. Hanks and the girl set out on the lonesome trail and run afoul of all manner of nefarious bad guys, but none of them do any lasting harm. And the two of them bond and become close. And when all seems lost, the girl’s connections to Native American culture save the day.
There’s nothing new or interesting about these characters, their story or their drama. Not even Kidd’s emotional baggage has anything to do with the story, because his baggage isn’t about children. And the girl’s baggage isn’t specifically about needing a father figure.
I was especially disappointed — being a newsman myself at the Daily Sentinel — that Kidd’s unique profession did not play a bigger part in the movie. Were there really people who went from rural town to rural town to read the news? That sounds fascinating. But the movie isn’t about that, nor does that play much of a part in Kidd’s journey. And yet they named the movie after it.
The most “News of the World” has to offer is another patient, fatherly role for Tom Hanks, but there are plenty of movies like that and they are far more fun