Film review: Grizzly Falls

Published: Monday, Nov. 8 1999 2:45 p.m. MST

"Grizzly Falls" is the kind of film that gives low-budget, independently made family features a bad name.

It's bad enough that this adventure-drama — produced by an American television veteran, with Aussie and British actors and filmed in Canada — is alternately dull and unintentionally hilarious. But it's also much too violent to justify its questionable marketing as all-ages entertainment.

Between that and the film's poor quality, it's hard to understand why "Grizzly Falls" didn't just bypass theatrical release and head directly to the home-video market, where it probably would have recouped some of the production costs.

Instead, it will now receive notoriety through what are sure to be negative reviews, which may hurt the film in both of those markets.

And speaking of notoriety, this dud is sure to stain the resumes of the name actors unfortunate enough to be part of it. Foremost among them is Richard Harris, who narrates and appears in the film's framing sequences as grandfatherly Harry Bankston.

Sitting around the campfire with his two grandchildren, Harry regales them with tales of his youth, such as the time he was "kidnapped" by a mother grizzly bear.

Accompanying his estranged father, Tyrone (Bryan Brown), on a hunting expedition in the Canadian wilderness, young Harry (Daniel Clark) befriends tracker Joshua (Tom Jackson) and is awed by the sights and sounds of the wild. But he's unable to communicate with his father, who seems unconcerned with the boy's well-being.

That is, until a female grizzly snatches Harry — as an act of "revenge" for the hunters taking her own "children" — and heads off into the mountains with the boy. But as they continue to elude the hunters, Harry finds himself forging a bond with the animal, which protects him on more than one occasion.

The silliness of the plot is just one of many major problems with the film, which is supposed to be set at the turn of the century but looks rather contemporary. (However, the location photography is breathtaking at times.)

And director Stewart Raffill ("The Sea Gypsies") seems unable to coax any degree of interest from his cast. That is, except for the animal cast, which pretty much outshines its human counterparts.

"Grizzly Falls" is rated PG, though it pushes that rating with some pretty violent animal attacks, gunplay and a particularly brutal brawl, some gory makeup effects and use of some mild profanities.

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