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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Retro Review: Harry and the Hendersons (1987)

Harry and the Hendersons
Cast: John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon, Don Ameche, David Suchet, Kevin Peter Hall, M. Emmet Walsh
Genre: Fantasy Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $49 million

Plot: The Henderson family adopt a friendly sasquatch, but have a hard time trying to keep the legend of 'Bigfoot' a secret

'Larger- Than- Life Comedy Caper That Is Restrained With Modesty & Endearment'

Set in Seattle, Washington and from Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg's production company & the home of E.T, Harry & The Hendersons plays out as a rural version of the 1982 mega-hit with the big, friendly sasquatch and the Henderson family in place of E.T himself, Eliott and his sister and mother. The movie also trades in the sentimental melodrama for a lighter, humourous tone. & by effect it works - sort of. Which is not only a surprise but that the film itself is also executed very well. 

A bigfoot by the name of Harry catches the eye of a hunter in George, as he and his family are out trekking in the wilderness, whilst on a family trip in the Northwest when they heedlessly come into collision with it with their car. Believing he is dead, they take him back home to their neck of the woods - only to see him come alive & with that, anarchy strikes. Though it isn't long until the Hendersons warm to his affections & thus, Harry becomes a part of the family. Meanwhile, an infatuated hunter and museum curator each set their sights on Harry for different reasons. 

Though it is your usual Spielberg G-rated fare, the film thankfully avoids going down the overly sentimentally sappy & mawkish route, which would have taken away from it. Instead, it opts for a somewhat light-hearted romp, supplemented with a few slapstick scenes & some R-rated adult language thrown in.

John Lithgow impresses as father, George Henderson, who and along with his family, become the talk of the town when word gets around about the appearance of the bigfoot. At first, he has reservations about Harry, but over time when Harry wins him over, George comes around & has a sudden change of heart, much to the happiness of his son and wife, yet less so his daughter. The late Kevin Peter Hall also impresses as the big hairy ape in costume, and much like with the Predator joins the ranks of Hall's well-known characters that he has portrayed on screen.  

The only major negative thing I have is its runtime and that the story is a tad too long but besides that, and whereas it is a fantasy-like film that is still scoffed by many, Harry and the Hendersons remain as one of the fewer and better ET clones done right. Spielberg may have replicated its tried and tested formula here, and still, it manages to maintain some of its warmth and charm. The animatronic work through Harry's suit is incredible as it and Peter Hall's efforts bring Harry to life. I miss family G-rated, PG & U rated films that had plenty of heart and quality, beneath the performances and films aesthetics. We just don't have more of these types of films today, - or be it they are just not made anymore. It's sad.

But still, Harry & The Hendersons emphasises 3 important things: 1) the strength and importance of family, 2) appearances can be perceptive and 3) that it largely remains just as heartwarming as the large majority of Amblin & Spielberg's other family fare. 

It's not amazing, it's not fantastic, but it's certainly admirable and a well-tried effort. I actually thought that I'd not like this one, and yet Harry & The Hendersons was a huge eyeopener in more ways than one; despite the oddball premise, the film is restrained with a lighter and modest approach that comes across as endearing at times that is also enhanced by the appeal of the central characters & the performances by all of those involved. 

The ending also brought tears to my eyes.   

Final Verdict:

This was, for the most part, enjoyable and it managed to keep me peeled, which I thought was something that Harry and the Hendersons wouldn't be able to do. But I was proved wrong.  

It's no doubt that in my mind, it's a mid-1980s classic that still holds up extremely well today and whilst it is yet another film that passed me by as a child, watching it today as an adult, it affirms to me how good-intentioned it was, and still is. 


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