March 12, 2009

The Legend of Sasquatch (2006)

AS A CHILD OF THE '70S, I was privy to several pop-culture phenomena – one of the biggies being the fascination with Bigfoot, aka Sasquatch (the Loch Ness Monster was a close second). He was everywhere, from magazines to news reports to The Six Million Dollar Man to cheap-and-fast movies (one of which I confessed my fears about to the guys at Kindertrauma).

So when I saw there was a family film called The Legend of Sasquatch, I felt compelled – nay, obligated – to bring it home for Dash and I to watch.

• Little Maggie and big sister Khristy (voiced by real-life sisters Blaire & Jewel Restaneo) fly with single parent Dad (William Hurt) to their new home – a cabin in the woods near a man-made dam where Dad will be working (Mom died recently, but we’re not told how). During the flight, Maggie wonders if they’ll see Bigfoot during their stay.
• One night, Maggie is woken by rustling outside her window, where she catches a fleeting glimpse of Baby Sasquatch hauling hairy butt after gathering pine cones.
• After a couple more nighttime near-misses, Maggie finally meets Baby Sasquatch after luring him into their storage shed with a trail of pine cones. She befriends Baby and his mama, much to the disbelief of his sister and dad (as in, they don’t believe her).
These are not your father’s Sasquatch – instead of big, hairy, scary ape-like creatures, they’re a kinder, gentler, softer Sasquatch (think giant coconuts with floppy, furry clown feet). Not only that, they can fly if they suck in enough air, they live in a cluster of large underground caverns, and their leader is a shaman Sasquatch who extols several aspects of Native American beliefs.
• When flooding caused by the dam threatens the Sasquatch’s underground lair, Maggie tries to enlist her family to help the Sasquatch find a new place to call home.
• There’s also a who-cares subplot involving mountain man Cletus (Lance LeGault) trying in vain to kidnap Baby Sasquatch in the name of fame and fortune.

• For an independent, largely unknown film, The Legend of Sasquatch does have an impressive pedigree of actors, including Hurt, John Rhys-Davis (Gimli from The Lord of the Rings), and voice legends Frank Welker (Scooby Doo’s Fred) as Baby Sasquatch and June Foray (Rocky & Bullwinkle) as Mama Sasquatch. Unfortunately, Welker and Foray are largely wasted, since their vocals for Baby and Mama consist solely of squeaks, grunts, and groans that any competent voice talent could perform.
Sasquatch does have a cute, upbeat soundtrack, including the song “I Can Dream” by the aforementioned Restaneo sisters, who apparently have quite a thriving musical career. The film also features an angelic, lullaby-like score by Stafford Hebert.
Regarding the animation, Pixar has nothing to worry about. The character design and movement is pretty basic and sometimes crude, reminiscent of the early days of VeggieTales. Still, it does seem deliberate in its simplicity, if that makes sense.
The story of Sasquatch owes a lot to E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – the single-parent family, the doubting older sibling, luring the creature into the open with a trail of items (pine cones in place of Reese’s Pieces)…there’s even a scene of Mama, Baby, and Maggie flying in silhouette in front of a full moon.
• I appreciate and understand that writer/director (and Disney/Henson veteran) Thomas Callicoat made Sasquatch as an independent film, which probably restricted his budget and resources. Still, a strong, compelling story can trump even the most frugal execution; unfortunately, that didn’t happen here. In fact, the last 20 minutes meander a bit, getting muddled in hokum about stars and spirits and Maggie’s ability to talk to her dead mom.

Though The Legend of Sasquatch is a less-than-perfect film, there was one scene I must single out: When the Sasquatch have to leave their caverns and search for a new home, Maggie says, “Everyone I love goes away…just like Mommy.” Ranger Steve (Rhys-Davies) then picks up a fallen pine cone and delivers a response that’s so eloquent and powerful, I had to print it here:

“This pine cone is only a shell. It is an empty container that once overflowed with the seeds of life. Should I be sad for this empty shell, or be happy for the life that is still growing in the forest because of it? Part of this pine cone still lives in every tree it has created. Parts of the ones that you love still live in you…no matter where they are.”

At its core, The Legend of Sasquatch is a simple, cute (albeit anemic) tale about the importance of family – not just having one, but preserving it both now and in the memories we’ll cherish throughout our lives.

Odds and ends:
The Legend of Sasquatch was released in 2006, but wasn’t available on DVD until October 2008.
The film received a bunch of family-friendly awards and recognition, including Best Feature Film (Animation) at the 2007 International Family Film Festival, a Dove Foundation seal of Family Approval, an endorsement from the Coalition for Quality Children's Media, and was an Official Selection of the 2007 Kids First! Film Festival.

Rating: 2 stars (out of 5).

What did Dash think?
• Dash was very attentive, but I was checking the clock around the 40-minute mark. Ironically, I was the one fidgeting, not my 5-year-old son.
• No surprise here, but Dash said, “Baby Sasquatch was my favorite.”

Will your kids like it?
The movie is the cinematic equivalent of Nerf; no child will get hurt interacting with it. But older kids will probably find it too slow and syrupy to stay engaged. It’s definitely a better fit for younger children, though be forewarned – there's an early mention by big sister Khristy that Sasquatch is a myth, “just like Santa Claus.” Luckily, Maggie defends that Santa Claus is real, so little ones watching the movie will have someone their age keeping Santa alive and well.

Will your FilmMother like it?
She’ll probably find it a pleasant, inoffensive movie to show to young ones, but if she tries to watch it, I’m pretty sure she’ll be doing clock-checking much like I did.

The Legend of Sasquatch
* Director: Thomas Callicoat
* Screenwriter: Thomas Callicoat
* Stars: William Hurt, John Rhys-Davies, Jewel Restaneo, Blaire Restaneo, Frank Welker, June Foray, Lance LeGault
* MPAA Rating: G

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James (SeattleDad) said...

You are going to make a great reference blog for me in a couple of years when Lukas is old enough to watch films.

Gemma said...

Awwww, how sweet! I just loved Ranger Steve's explanation of the pine cone. Maybe the movie was a little slow, but I sure applaud its message!

Keith said...

I think my young cousin watched this movie recently.

Jim @ said...

Great review, I hadn't heard of this one before. It's amazing, we hardly go to the movie theater, but seem to struggle finding something of interest at home. Looking forward to additional reviews and ideas of movies to watch. Thanks!

joe said...

Remember the Bionic Bigfoot action figure by Kenner???
Also during that time there was a big pop-culture thing about the Bermuda Triangle too. There was even a Bermuda Triangle game.

Anonymous said...

My daughter loves this movie...would love if they had a sountrack of it:(


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