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  Harry and the Hendersons Putting His Bigfoot In It
Year: 1987
Director: William Dear
Stars: John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon, Margaret Langrick, Joshua Rudoy, Kevin Peter Hall, David Suchet, Lainie Kazan, Don Ameche, M. Emmet Walsh, Bill Ontiverous, David Richardt, Laura Kenny, Richard Arnold, Sean Morgan
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Henderson family are driving home through the forests from a holiday where dad George (John Lithgow) was keen to try out his rifles on the local wildlife, as he and his father (M. Emmet Walsh) run a gun shop together, so he might as well be acquainted with the merchandise. His wife Nancy (Melinda Dillon) is less pleased about his interests, but puts up with it even as they discuss the subject on their drive, catching sight of the odd deer on the way. That is until they crash right into an animal that was running across the road, something big, and when George gets out to investigate he has a shock...

Here was another family movie from Steven Spielberg's Amblin company, and this one wore its woolly liberal credentials on its sleeve. Or rather, its hairy liberal credentials, as the animal that George ran over is more human than the bear he thought it was, for he has knocked over that cryptozoological legend Bigfoot. It was conservation that this brought to the table, as the script was definitely not best disposed towards animal hunters, so George has to see the error of his ways before the end credits roll and give up shooting creatures for sport. The Bigfoot himself, the Harry of the title, is even a vegetarian.

Although he does eat fish, so he's one of those not-quite vegetarians who cheat a bit and are looked down on by vegans. The premise sees the Bigfoot, or Sasquatch to give him his proper, posh name, transported to the suburbs after the Hendersons think they can make a bit of cash - a lot of cash, actually - by selling the body that they think is dead. That is, until it wakes up on their roof and flies off, then they think it's dead again, put it back on the roof and take it home whereupon it wakes up once more and starts to comically demolish their house. If you remember the sitcom made out of this, then you might be expecting a mainly domestic comedy, but it doesn't quite play out that way.

The Hendersons change their mind about selling Harry, they've given him a name after all, and decide to get him back to the wild, but that proves easier said than done when he rushes off into the city alone and George is put through a personal crisis. He has to find Harry before the increasing number of gun-wielding hunters alerted by the sightings track him first, and possibly shoot the apeman dead for a trophy. Here's where the anti-hunting theme becomes most blatant, and they do tend to beat the viewer over the head with the animal-loving pleas to the conscience, but the strength of this is in the characterisation of Harry himself, a mix of costume, puppetry and the acting of the man in the suit.

That man was Kevin Peter Hall, who had played the Predator in that film, and whose massive height made him a natural for such heavily made up roles, but that was not all as he displayed a real talent for mime in the Bigfoot costume that makes Harry almost human, and thus all the more likely for us to want him to survive and not fall victim to the bullets of hunter Jacques Lafleur (David Suchet). Of course, Rick Baker's superb makeup effects helped, as his efforts here were a wonder of his art and light years ahead of the likes of The Legend of Boggy Creek, but this was a humorous movie so the slapstick was just as important as the pathos, although there is plenty of both. It's an easy film to get along with as its generous nature is amiable to a fault, and the environmental aspects are deeply felt as Harry becomes the embodiment of all the creatures who mankind feels the need to kill at one point or another. Yes, it's overearnest, but nicely accomplished. Music by Bruce Broughton.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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