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I walked into Alaska knowing full well it was a "kid's movie." With its poster pair of kidlets and cuddly li'l polar bear tromping across the snow, I just knew I was in for 104 minutes of cute cuddly blecch. And Charlton Heston as the bad guy! Smart-butt Cranky had already figured out that Heston would be reformed by cute cuddly li'l polar bear and come out of this movie a reformed, righteous man.
Wrong on both counts.
Heston stays the bad guy throughout, and Alaska was not hard to sit through at all. It works on a number of levels, once you get it through your head that it is a FANTASY and not based in any kind of reality. If you want a "realistic" story, look elsewhere.
Once upon a time, a 747 pilot (Dirk Benedict) lost his wife in an unspecified manner and, needing to make a new start, moved himself and his kids up to Quincy, Alaska, where he pilots a one seater seaplane delivering things like ampicillin and toilet paper to the inhabitants of the tundra. His youngest, daughter Jessie (Thora Birch), takes to the new locale like a fish to water. She learns to kayak. She learns the geography. She hangs with the natives and has herself a pretty good time. Older brother Sean (Vincent Kartheiser), who would be mid-teens I guess, is bored off his kazoo. He wishes his dad had died instead of his mother. When his dad's plane goes down in a storm, he fears he may have gotten his wish.
Out where everything is snow covered, Charlton Heston shoots and skins polar bears. Early on he shoots a mama bear and takes li'l cuddly cute baby bear into captivity, knowing he can sell it for big bucks to clients in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, attempts to find and rescue daddy have failed. Kidlet son, riddled with guilt, decides to head north to find and save dad. Determined to protect her older brother's butt, li'l sis signs on for the trek. Sure they'll have to climb mountains, rappel down gorges, negotiate white water runs in kayaks, and canoe and trek over miles of frozen tundra. But they're prepared because they watch ESPN2!!!
Yeah right. Once the kids stumble onto and free the baby bear, the details fall into the realm of fantasy and the story plays out nicely. If you let go of reality.
Director Fraser Heston has done his prep work well. The locations he scouted and selected are breathtakingly spectacular. Once in a while you feel you are slipping into travelogue mode, but the story is paced well. Heston, the director, does not shoot down to the kids. There are thrilling sequences, death defying situations, and enough tension tossed in that virtually all kidlet eyes in the audience I sat with were riveted to the screen.
Ditto the parents. Ditto Cranky.
Normally I don't assign dollar ratings to kids movies, unless they are marketed to the wider audience. But since most kidlet flicks wind up being seen first run on video, I will make an exception...
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Alaska, he would have paid . . .
Teens might be bored silly, but if you want a good movie to take the kidlets to, and not be bored off your rocker while you sit through it, you're not going to miss with this one.
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