Throwback Thursday Review: “Harry and the Hendersons” (1987)



Title: Harry And The Hendersons
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Posted July 21, 2016 by

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In the 80s, it didn’t take a lot to make a hit family film. There were a few key elements: 1) A heavy dose of comedy (preferably of the silly/physical variety), 2) A dastardly villain to root against, and 3) A lot of heartwarming, “Moral of the story” moments. There were countless films that fit that bill, but for me, growing up, there were a handful of masterpieces. “Harry and the Hendersons” was one such masterpiece. I can’t even tell you how many times I watched “Harry”, but I can tell you that I LOVED it! Could it be because six year old me believed that there was a Bigfoot out there, and that I had a chance at finding him and (like the kids in the movie) befriending him? Maybe… but it definitely had to do with a few laugh out loud moments and some amazing creature effects, mixed with the physical performance of Kevin Peter Hall (who would later play the alien in “Predator”). In either case, “Harry and the Hendersons” was one of my childhood favorites.

“Harry” begins with the Henderson family returning home, from a camping trip. George (Lithgow), Nancy (Dillon), and their kids Sarah (Margaret Langrick) and Ernie (Joshua Rudoy) are having a typical family conversation, when the family station wagon plows into something huge! When George investigates, and realizes he may have just killed Bigfoot, he decides to strap the lifeless figure to the top of the car and see if they can make a quick buck off of their (and it’s) misfortune. Little do they know that the sasquatch (who they later name Harry) is very much alive, and is really good at the destruction of property.

harry 2Hilarity ensues, with George and his family trying to teach Harry basic house manners, and Harry breaking everything in sight. This first act is hands down the best. Although the kids get pretty annoying, there are plenty of really strong moments with Harry and his new family. There is even an underlying message of looking at nature, and the creatures within, as part of our own family. It is later, when Harry runs away and gets lost in Seattle, that the film drags some and loses it’s focus on the family dynamic that made the first act so good. At that point (unbeknownst to me as a kid) the movie becomes a heavy handed “Hunting is evil, and guns are the devil” tale of morality. Suddenly, every citizen living in the city becomes bloodthirsty, gun-toting morons. In hindsight, that might have even been another reason that I liked it as a kid, as I was terrified of guns and very sensitive towards all beasts of nature.

Even with the uneven tone, “Harry” has enough charm and heart that I still really enjoyed it, as an adult. The scenes with Lithgow and Harry are still hilarious, David Suchet is still a great villain (even if it’s a villain who, out of nowhere, learns his lesson and does a one eighty), and the story is still touching. For those reasons, I would still strongly recommend it as a flick to watch with the whole family. I will warn that it does have a couple of intense moments, for really young ones, and there are a few four letter words thrown around. Those things aside though it is a goodhearted movie, and is still entertaining as hell, after all these years. Watch the trailer here




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