THE ALPS — *** — Large-screen documentary about the European mountain range; not rated, probable G (nothing offensive)

Even though the film was shot — and is being shown — in the 2-D format and not in IMAX's sometimes gimmicky 3-D one, "The Alps" is still not for those who have a fear of heights.

After all, the documentary short puts viewers at the base of, on the side of and on top of the European mountains, some of which rise nearly three miles above sea level.

Co-screenwriter, editor and director Stephen Judson ("Everest," "Journey into Amazing Caves") interviews snow scientists studying avalanches, as well as an Italian expert who discusses the unique culture of the mountain range, which winds 700 miles through France, Italy and Switzerland and ends in Slovenia.

And Judson's camera crews, which include cinematographer Brad Ohlund, capture what appear to be fairy-tale villages and the jagged, craggy lines of the Matterhorn.

But the most interesting sequences in the movie look at the Eiger, a treacherous peak that, the movie notes, has claimed more than two dozen victims over the years. That is not enough to deter writer and climber John Harlin III, whose father was killed after falling during an Eiger ascent in 1966.

The younger Harlin has returned home to Switzerland and brings his wife, Adele, and young daughter, Siena, with him. He hopes to claim the Eiger's north face, by retracing his father's ill-fated route.

Fortunately, he has assistance from Robert and Daniela Jasper, two veterans who have made the climb successfully.

Judson is wise enough to limit the voice-over bits (narrator Michael Gambon is appropriately subdued) and makes good use of occasional music from the rock group Queen (a bungee-jumping scene features "Can't Stop Me Now," and there are a couple of instrumental solos from guitarist Brian May).

"The Alps" is not rated but would probably receive a G. It features some thrilling mountain-climbing sequences and a re-creation or two but contains nothing offensive. Running time: 45 minutes.


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