June 3, 2013 - Summer gets a lot more interesting for two teenage boys in Arkansas when they come across a boat in a tree and the man who's living in it. Matthew McConaughey stars along with Reese Witherspoon. Newcomers Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland play the boys. Joe Don Baker and Sam Shepard also appear.

The movie centers on Ellis (Sheridan), who lives with his parents in a house on the Arkansas River. His dad ekes out a living by catching and selling fish. His mom wants to get a divorce and go live in town. Ellis hangs out with his best friend, Neckbone ("Neck" for short), and they've heard tell of a boat stuck up in a tree on an island in the middle of the river.

They go to check it out and, sure enough, there's a boat up in a tree. They claim it as theirs only to find out that it's already been claimed by a man named Mud (McConaughey). He tells the boys that he's on the island waiting for his girlfriend, Juniper (Witherspoon), to join him. Then, they'll take the boat and sail away from everyone who's looking for him because he killed Juniper's abusive lover down in Texas. Helping Mud seems like a good idea until the boys start learning more about Juniper, the men who are after Mud, and Mud himself.

Overall review: *** Even though Mud is the title character, the movie is really a coming of age tale about Ellis. He's at the center of everything, and everything that happens could easily turn his worldview from romantic to cynical if he lets it. Fortunately, he has Neckbone, Mud, and the closest thing Mud ever had to father to keep that from happening.

I gave this film three stars instead of four primarily because, although the movie does tie up some loose ends, there are other questions that never get answered. Those questions include: How did Mud get to the island in the first place? How does Mud know how to get a boat down from a tree? And, perhaps most importantly, how does Mud's lucky shirt manage to stay so white?