'War' Is Hell? You Got That Right.

JON AVNET'S THE WAR HAS A LOT ON ITS big, soft mind. War, for one. It's bad. Racism, for another. It's bad, too. Love? It makes the world go round. You might also like to know that "with God's help, human beings can do anything." Kathy McWorter, the writer of this high-minded family drama, populates her saga with dirt-poor Mississippi characters, all of whom are solemnly able to dispense homilies at the drop of a hat. The year is 1970. Kevin Costner stars as a Vietnam vet suffering from posttraumatic stress and struggling to support his wife (Mare Winningham) and two kids (Elijah Wood and Lexi Randall). Though broke, tormented and unable to hold a job, he's as warm and wise as any junior senator from Mississippi campaigning for re-election. The kids have built a treehouse, which is under siege by a nasty gaggle of unwashed redneck kids. This will escalate into a highly symbolic children's war, from which many lessons will be learned. Avnet, who made "Fried Green Tomatoes," serves up these refried banalities with a serene disregard for the way people actually behave. It's impossible to tell whom this movie was made for. Even William Bennett would have trouble staying awake.