It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Butch and Sundance: The Early Days" is a pleasant and handsome Western that draws us inexorably toward these reflections: If events of crucial interest had really happened to Butch and Sundance in the early days, either (a) they would have been included in the original movie, or (b) the present film would not have waited so easily for ten years to be made.
How to put it fairly? This is not a necessary film, and that's really its most crucial shortcoming. As an exercise in filmmaking, it is technically fine: Laszlo Kovac's photography, Richard Lester's direction, the goodhearted performances of Tom Berenger and William Katt, are all impossible to dislike. The film even has some of the same easygoing charm of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), and if Berenger and Katt are not as electrifying as Newman and Redford - well, few acting teams are.
But as we listen to the freewheeling dialog, as we watch young Butch and the Kid blunder through their first adventures and finesse their later ones, there's a nagging question bouncing about in the backs of our heads: Why are we in this theater at this time? Did we want to know about the early days? Now that we're here, does the movie make us care?
Not really. It provides no psychological explanation for the mature Butch and Sundance (and thanks for that). It provides no insight into the life of crime (we did not require one). But, and this is important, it fails to make its characters into the kinds of three-dimensional people who'd be intrinsically interesting even if they'd never gone on to be famous and inspire a hit movie. If the heroes of this film were named Sam and Joe, we'd be totally baffled by it.