Eye For Film >> Movies >> Harry And The Hendersons (1987) Film Review
Harry And The Hendersons is one of the first films I remember seeing in the cinema as a kid. It was 1987 and my uncle had just passed his driving test so he was well into driving places and the cinema just happened to be one of them.
Even though the film is only 110 minutes long, they still had an intermission half way through, for some reason. And I swear, they actually had ushers coming round selling stuff before it started back up again. I believe that is the first and only time I have seen such old-fashioned picture house practices. But it makes my original memory of this film so much more nostalgic.
The Hendersons consist of wannabe artist/gun salesman dad George (always brilliant John Lithgow), loving mum (Melinda Dillon), a bratty daughter and a hyperactive son. On returning from a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest, they accidentally run into some sort of large furry creature on the forest road. Originally believing it to be a bear, George steps out of the car to prod it with his gun a few times. But the bear has man-like hands and George suddenly asks his family 'What if it's...HIM?"
Bigfoot! Think of how much he's worth!
So they tie him to the roof of the car and drive him home, while George thinks of the best way of selling him. Later that night, he is curious as to how big his feet really are. So he sneaks down to the garage with a measuring tape only to find that he's no longer strapped to the roof rack, but poking around in the kitchen fridge.
The Hendersons stand back as Bigfoot (or Harry, as he is later renamed) stomps around the house and garden investigating all their strange belongings. Though he doesn't care much for the animal trophies hanging around everywhere. Freaking out, George tries to snipe Harry from the bedroom window, but has a change of heart when he realises that Harry is just a big, harmless oaf.
The best scenes involve Harry making himself at home in the Henderson house. His mannerisms and body language are similar to a child, warned to be on their best behaviour while visiting old relatives. He constantly looks a bit nervous and uncomfortable but is always ready to grab you for a big hug.
Rick Baker deservedly took home an Academy Award for Best Make-Up Effects back in 1988 for this movie. Harry Henderson is an amazing character with a wonderfully wide range of expressions and emotions. All ET ever did was sit there looking bug-eyed. Not Harry, though - you can't help loving him. I so want my own Bigfoot.
Even now, as an adult, I still think this movie is great. As a kid, I remember feeling the panic and excitement when Harry got lost in Seattle and the half-crazed Bigfoot hunter Jacques LaFleur (David Suchet) embarks on lots of sleaziness in order to have him shot, gutted and sold to science. Forgive the repeated comparison, but to me it was more involving and fun than the man with the keys in E.T.
You just don't get family movies like this anymore. Back in the Eighties Steven Spielberg's Amblin production company made loads of great family movies, like Gremlins, Goonies, the Back To The Future trilogy, Young Sherlock Holmes and Innerspace. They all had some kind of high-concept spin that crud such as Like Mike and Crapper By The Dozen don't.
It was a great time to be a kid back in those days. We weren't cynical and jaded and hooked on PlayStation like modern children. We still had a sense of adventure, a longing for the outdoors. Anything could be out there. Maybe Harry is actually bumbling around in the woods as I write this.
Like the Patterson/Gimlin film that inspired it, Harry And The Hendersons is one movie that will be timeless forever.Reviewed on: 18 May 2006
If you like this, try:E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial