Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Harry and the Hendersons (1987)

As a child, well before everyone had a decent camera in their phone, I thought it impossible that a creature like Bigfoot could go unnoticed.  You’d think with humanity constantly encroaching on every corner of the planet, someone would have found a Bigfoot community or something.  All we have are a few fuzzy photographs and vague molds of footprints of what people claim are the hairy cryptoid.  Yes, new species are discovered all the time, but nothing as big as this.  Thus, it comes as a surprise when the Henderson family hits one with their car.  Twice.

The father, George, gets out and assumes that the creature is dead.  The only thing to do is take Bigfoot home and see what their options are.  No easy task, considering how big Bigfoot is.  George Henderson is played by John Lithgow.  Lithgow is a tall guy at 6' 4".  Bigfoot is taller.  Bigfoot is played by Kevin Peter Hall, who stood 7' 2½".  This makes it hard to lift him onto the car, to say nothing of where they’ll put him when they get home.

When Bigfoot wakes up, he goes through the house and destroys a good portion of it.  He also tries to bury George’s hunting trophies in the back yard.  It takes a while for the Hendersons to realize that Bigfoot isn’t that dangerous.  They decide to let him stay, even calling him Harry.  They eventually realize that Harry has to go back; he has no place in a major city.  Dr. Wallace Wrightwood is willing to help once he realizes that Harry does exist.  Jacques Lafleur, however, is hot on Harry’s trail and will stop at nothing to get his prize.

The movie is generally safe for older children.  Harry goes from being frightened and defensive to sweet and friendly pretty early on, so any really scary scenes will be in the beginning of the film.  Much of the humor is slapstick, though.  Harry is every bit as clumsy as you’d expect, which is understandable.  He’s out of his element.  George teaches Harry to sit.  When Harry does sit, it’s often with destructive consequences, like destroying a table or putting a hole in the floor.

There’s also the moral dilemma.  George sees dollar signs, but the rest of the family sees him as a living creature.  George eventually comes around, realizing the he’s not even sure who to turn Harry over to.  Is it fair to make money off of a living creature, especially knowing that they’d be poked and prodded?  The alternative is to keep him trapped in a house that’s too small for him and hope they can find food for him.  It doesn’t help that neighbors would likely not understand.

Interestingly, they did make this into a TV sitcom.  I never saw it, but I do vaguely recall hearing about it.  I actually ran for 72 episodes over three seasons.  I’m assuming that the show would have used a plot similar to ALF, in that Harry would have been confined to the house.  I might check that out if it ever comes on Netflix.  One thought crossed my mind while watching the movie, though:  What would have happened if Syfy had gotten their hands on the script?

IMDb page

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