Hearts in Atlantis may turn out to be an early indicator of whether America, mired in global conflict, is now going to want to get lost in a feel-good field of dreams. Set in a velvety reverie of 1960, and adapted from one of Stephen King’s I-don’t-just-do-horror-I-do-rustic-boyhood tales, it’s a movie that invites you to bask in the trappings of small-town Americana during the Atomic Age: a first kiss on the Ferris wheel, root beer in the fridge, strolling on the train tracks at sunset while ”Sleep Walk” twangs on the soundtrack. I’m not sure it would be quite accurate to call this nostalgia; it’s more like nostalgia for nostalgia. Directed by Scott Hicks (Shine), who lathers on the overdeliberate innocence in burnished calendar-art pastels, Hearts in Atlantis is too poky and contrived to be a good movie, but its lushly serene atmospherics, given current events, make it a pure slice of sentimental comfort food.
First on the menu of soothing entrées is Anthony Hopkins, in full butter-voiced benevolence, as a puckish codger with hidden powers who rents out an attic room in the home of Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin), a curly-topped 11-year- old, and his snappish widowed mom (Hope Davis). The boy’s friendship with this enigmatic mentor, who appears to know what goes on in the minds of everyone he encounters, forms the core of the movie, and Hopkins, eyes shining as if he were a star-child in his golden years, is peerless at caressing the space around him. That said, when this fellow starts going on about the ”low men,” dark-suited mystery agents who represent everything in the world that’s bad, you know that you’ve been stranded in a metaphorical goo of postwar boomer hokum. Hearts in Atlantis has moments of feeling (the young actors are vivid and spontaneous), but I’d like it better if it weren’t bogged down in Stephen King’s heavy-handed insistence that the Eisenhower years were the Ur-moment, when ”purity” was endangered but shining. B-