Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Grizzly Falls (2000)
Studio Line: Artisan Entertainment - A Boy. A Bear. An Amazing Adventure.

A boy and his father take a trip to the majestic mountains of the great Northwest -- to Grizzly Falls -- where they set off on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure full of breathtaking excitement, harrowing danger and thrilling surprises.

Tyrone Bankston is a world-famous explorer who takes his young son Harry on his greatest expedition yet, to capture a full grown grizzly bear -- and bring it back alive! But when the hunting party captures two cubs, the cub's ferocious mother seizes Harry. To rescue his son, Tyrone must track the pair deep into the wilderness. In this incredible journey, the father and son learn that respect for nature, danger and even love can come in the most unexpected ways.

Director: Stewart Raffill
Cast: Bryan Brown, Daniel Clark, Richard Harris, Tom Jackson, Oliver Tobias
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1; audio English DD 5.0; subtitles none; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; 25 chapters; rated PG; 94 min.; $24.98; street date 6/27/00.
Supplements: Grizzly Bear Outtakes; Trailer; TV Spots; Production Notes; Cast And Crew Information.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B-/C+/D+

Although I dearly love animals, I've never been interested in those kinds of "wildlife adventure" TV shows and movies. Perhaps this stems from the fact I'm more of a domesticated animal kind of guy - I own a toy poodle, for God's sake - and I've never been one for the great outdoors.

Nonetheless, I actually found Grizzly Falls, a modest adventure about a trip to capture a bear, to offer some minor pleasures. Virtually any enjoyment I derived from the film stemmed from the charm of its furry stars, since the plot itself was awfully thin. The entire tale is told in flashback, as we find an aged version of Harry Bankston (Richard Harris) who tells of how he developed a special relationship with grizzly bears as a youngster (Daniel Clark).

It's a wholesome but hokey affair, as we see how Harry's dad Tyrone (Bryan Brown) doesn't pay enough attention to him until Harry gets kidnap by a cheesed-off grizzly as retribution for the capture of her cubs. Inevitably, Harry and Beary bond during their time together, and complications ensue due to a vengeful hunter with the group.

Excuse me while I yawn, because this kind of story seems pretty stale. Nonetheless, the execution has its merits. The acting is nothing special, but Clark manages to keep from falling into the cutesy excesses of most child actors and he makes for a likable protagonist. Brown is also pretty good in the more emotionally-demanding role of the dad; he goes through a lot of changes in the movie, and Brown portrays them in a reasonably realistic manner.

However, all of these folks don't really matter, since the bears are the main attraction, and happily, they deliver. The film uses a variety of grizzlies for different kinds of shots, and this method works nicely, as we see some fairly amazing scenes of the bears. The critters really get involved with the actors; it seems surprising to learn that apparently no animatronic animals were used. Instead, it's all real bears, and they deliver some fun and effective scenes that single-handedly make the movie entertaining.

Although Grizzly Falls remains a minor pleasure, I thought the delightfulness of the bears was enough to keep me entertained. The film itself is a trifle, but it's reasonably well-executed and does little to embarrass itself. It's not a classic, but it offers enough fun and charm to make it worthwhile.

The DVD:

Grizzly Falls appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture presents many strengths, it has enough problems to make it just a little above average in that regard.

Sharpness is one positive, as the image always looks very well-defined and clear, with virtually no soft or fuzzy scenes. It features no problems with moiré effects or jagged edges either. Print flaws are a concern, however. I only witness very light grain on occasion, but some speckling occurs, and I also saw far too many scratches; the latter becomes especially problematic during the film's final act.

Colors are natural and accurate, with no concerns related to bleeding or noisiness. Black levels are less good, however, as they seem dark but the often appear murky and muddy; there's just not a lot of definition to the deep tones, and the various parts become muddled. Shadow detail also causes problems, especially because we find a fair number of night scenes. Many of these sequences seem too dark and I had difficulty discerning the action at times. Much of GF looks great, but the print flaws and issues related to black tones caused me to drop my rating to a "B-".

Also questionable is the film's Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. The soundfield seemed rather limited through much of the movie. The forward speakers presented nice breadth in regard to the music, and effects also emanated from the sides sometimes, but the latter occurred with moderate infrequency. I also found the use of stereo effects a little awkward because the sounds didn't blend together very well; the activity level seems decent but the integration was a bit weak. The surrounds appeared very neglected; at best, they almost always provided gentle reinforcement of the effects and music with virtually no specific information emitting from them. For the most part, I felt unaware the rear speakers were even activated; at their most involving - such as during a thunderstorm - they remained quiet and passive.

Quality was mixed. Dialogue often seemed natural and clear, but it suffered from an excessive amount of brittleness and distortion. The latter became especially problematic whenever voices were raised; at those times the speech really became crackly. Effects displayed similar qualities; when the volume was normal, they appeared fairly accurate and realistic, but once things became loud, distortion would interfere. Once again, only the music redeems this soundtrack. The score sounded bright and bold and displayed some good dynamic range. Only the positive quality and dimensionality of the music earned this mix a "C+"; on their own, the effects and dialogue might not merit about a "D+".

The supplemental features of GF firmly earned a "D+" on their own, just because there isn't much here. Easily best of the lot are the seven minutes and 40 seconds of "Grizzly Bear Outtakes". These silent shots show our animal actors at work, and they're pretty entertaining, especially since the bears were the best part of the movie. (Hey, they could have just shown us 90 minutes of this footage and I'd have been happy!)

We find some decent cast and crew biographies. Listings appear for five actors and five crew members, and they generally provide modest levels of detail. The DVD also includes a theatrical trailer plus two TV spots, and we get a few screens of interesting and informative production notes as well. Finally, the DVD's booklet tosses in a few fun bits of grizzly bear facts and trivia. It's not a great package, but it's not terrible either.

The same might be said for Grizzly Falls itself. The film certainly isn't a classic, but it's a modestly entertaining piece of work, mainly due to the presence of some impressive animal actors. The DVD provides inconsistent but generally acceptable picture and sound plus a few minor extras. For animal lovers like myself or as a family flick, Grizzly Falls merits a rental.

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