Grizzly Falls

A boy and his bear. Family entertainment doesn't get much simpler—or more banal and predictable—than Grizzly Falls, a survivalist adventure distinguished only by its taste for blood, which is bound to traumatize the poor kids expecting something closer to Lassie than Straw Dogs. Perhaps that was to be expected from the producer-screenwriter team behind Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil, but the film's maulings, snapped bones, and shootouts undermine its forced wholesome air. A slumming Richard Harris is carted out for the framing story, in which he tells his grandchildren about his boyhood encounters with a grizzly bear in the Canadian Rockies. After his saintly mother dies (from that most saintly of period-movie afflictions, consumption), the young Harris—played by the bowl-cut Daniel Clark—goes on a hunting expedition with long-absent father Bryan Brown, an Indian (Tom Jackson), and a few saloon ruffians. But when the hunters capture a pair of grizzly cubs, their preternaturally intelligent mother retaliates by creeping into their camp and abducting the sleeping boy. From there, Grizzly Falls plays out in auto-pilot, cutting between Clark's budding friendship with the bear and Brown's nobly determined efforts to track them down. Some of its clichés are unintentionally funny, especially the wise and nature-savvy Indian character, who at one point scoops up a handful of grubs and determines (from what? cooling bear saliva?) that the grizzly was there about an hour before. But whatever mild pleasures can be drawn from the well-trained animal actors and the pretty Alberta scenery are negated by a lot of gratuitous violence and ugliness. The only children who could sit through Grizzly Falls without crying are probably too jaded to seek it out.

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