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DVD Review: Harry and the Hendersons

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Harry and the Hendersons is one of the lost ‘80s classics. If you’ve seen it, you assuredly have fond memories. If you haven’t, you probably never knew it existed, and without a DVD release until now, it’s hard to blame you.

Regardless of who has actually seen this small family masterpiece, it’s a memorable film with a great creature design by Rick Baker, solid performances all around, and the right mix of humor and drama. The story is about a typical Seattle family suddenly stuck with a giant bigfoot for an unwanted pet.

There’s a significant amount of subtle and non-subtle commentary on animal rights. In fact, that’s the main reason for the Hendersons choosing to keep the creature they accidentally hit with their car. Much of the humor in the film comes from Harry’s antics and adjustment to suburban life. Portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall, notable also for his performance as the Predator, Harry has an astounding amount of emotional ammunition to use as needed.

In fact, the film works as it does solely because of Baker and Hall. Everything hinges on the believability of the creature, and it’s so flawlessly crafted, even as the bigfoot creature takes on human characteristics (he loves The Addams Family) the audience never loses the illusion that he’s an animal away from his home. The human story is filled with general characters, particularly Margaret Langrick stuck in the role of a rebellious teenager with little else to do. The film also dies down in the middle after Harry escapes and the film moves into a sub-plot about a desperate hunter attempting to track down the creature.

While purely family fare, the youngest may be better off waiting a few years yet. William Dear’s direction can put the creature in an extremely terrifying light, particularly during the first full reveal in a dark kitchen. The rest of the film will captivate everyone in the audience.

Some may also find the message too pushy, though if that’s the case, you’re looking far too deep into this light-hearted fare. Taken for the fun romp it is, Harry and the Hendersons withstands the test of time. It remains as enjoyable as it was back in 1987.

"Stunning" is the immediate reaction to this DVD transfer. Colors are rich and bold, and clarity is remarkable. The print used doesn’t have a single flaw for the entire running time. Compression is never a problem, while light grain on certain shots does prevent this from being perfect. This never looks like a 20-year-old film.

While some dialogue sounds flat, the newly remastered 5.1 audio mix is fantastic. Harry creates powerful shots from the LFE channel as he steps. Rear speaker usage is surprisingly consistent. Subtle audio such as birds chirping fits in right alongside heavier uses during active sequences. It was worth the wait on DVD.

Extras begin with a decent commentary by director Dear. While he sometimes states the obvious, he delivers stories from the set and specific information on the creation of the film. Three minutes of deleted scenes deliver mostly redundant information given to the audience quicker in the finished film.

Harry: Finding the Missing Link is a nice behind-the-scenes feature that runs for 17 minutes. The footage of Rick Baker designing the suit is especially nice. Making Harry and the Hendersons goes right along with a newswrap reel produced to promote the film in 1987. They last about nine minutes total.

When William Dear first heard of the concept, it was in the form of a TV sitcom. Wisely, he saw the opportunity to turn this into a film, where the story could be fleshed out and the budget open to making an expressive friendly giant. Eventually, after a solid box office, it did become a TV series. No actors reprised their role for the two season run aside from Kevin Peter Hall.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.