Monday 1 January 2018

Movie Review: Harry And The Hendersons (1987)

A family-oriented fantasy comedy with some dramatic elements, Harry And The Hendersons carries an environment-friendly message in a fun and frantic package featuring a lovable monster.

Amateur hunter George Henderson (John Lithgow), his wife Nancy (Melinda Dillon) and their kids are on a family trip in the Northwest wilderness when they inadvertently strike a Big Foot-like creature with their car. Thinking that the oversized animal is dead they transport him back home to Seattle. But Big Foot (actor Kevin Peter Hall as the suit performer) is very much alive. He wakes up and unleashes chaos and destruction on the family home, before settling down and developing an affinity towards the family.

The Hendersons name their new houseguest Harry. He demonstrates caring emotions and proves to be a vegetarian and lover of animals, and his empathy rubs off on George. Meanwhile obsessed big game hunter Jacques LaFleur (David Suchet) and cranky academic turned crappy museum curator Dr. Wallace Wrightwood (Don Ameche) are desperately searching for Harry and closing in on the Hendersons. When Harry goes loose in Seattle, George has to find a way to save his new friend and restore order to his household.

Directed by William Dear, Harry And The Hendersons is a lightweight but enjoyable variation on E.T. This time it's the mythical Big Foot that proves to be more friendly pet than alien threat, but otherwise the same primary theme of learning to live together despite (huge, in this case) superficial differences dominates Harry.

Dear also co-wrote the script, and it tilts towards some broad slapstick comedy, as well as a more clearly defined villain in the form of dogged hunter LaFleur. But as usual the more interesting quests are the quiet ones, and George's transformative journey is what ultimately matters. He starts the film as an avid hunter teaching his young son all about guns and killing animals. Along with his vegetarianism Harry's reaction to all the stuffed animals on the family walls is an alternative view of nature, nudging George towards a change of heart.

Harry And The Henderson is aided by a terrific Rick Baker monster creation. With his expressive face and lumbering stance, it's easy to develop affection towards Harry. Big Foot creates his own mischievous personality and helps carry the film over it's rather saggy midsection.

The performances are what can be expected in a relatively modest family entertainment package. Overacting is the flavour of the day from all involved, and the lack of nuance sometimes lowers the enjoyment level to sitcom standards. Not surprisingly, the film did spawn a television series.

Staying well within modest ambitions, Harry And The Hendersons is happy, harmless and hairy fun.

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1 comment:

  1. I saw this today - turned out to be a nice surprise, especially as I've never seen it before. this is a well-tried effort.


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