Thursday, December 11, 2008


If you're like me, you probably hadn't heard of 1996's Alaska until you stumbled on it ... er, somewhere. There were no big names attached when it came out (doh! Except for one: Charlton Heston plays a, um ... well, a gun-totin’, kid-hatin’ poacher!), and I don't remember seeing any sort of promotion or marketing for it. I'm not sure why, as it's a fine piece of entertainment.

K and I watched this recently and it ran longer than I’d planned for; I so wanted to stop the film and get him to bed (it was a school night, and we do keep to our rules around here!), but just couldn’t. Alaska is a real cliffhanger (oooh, I wrote that before I realized the word works literally! No spoilers from me, though. My lips are sealed.).

The gist is this: Family of four living in Chicago becomes family of three when mom meets an early death (this is not dwelled upon, and happens before we join the story). Dad ("Battlestar Galactica"’s Dirk Benedict) decides to leave the rat race and move to Alaska, where he transforms from jet airliner pilot to small bi-plane pilot. He’s accompanied by his unhappy teenage son (Vincent Kartheiser, who went on to TV’s “Angel” and “Madmen”), who hates Alaska and misses the city, and an adventurous tweener daughter (Thora Birch, of Ghost World and American Beauty), who takes to their new life with gusto. Dad’s plane crashes in a storm. Rescue attempts falter, and who traipses off to the rescue? Why, the kids of course!

I think I grabbed K at least three times during the movie, accidentally digging my nails into him as I gasped in fear. I’m a sucker for wild canoe rides in raging waters, sneaky meanie-puss poachers and treacherous hikes on icy mountainsides. This movie has it all, plus (I’m saying it again) truly breathtaking photography... oh, and a really cute orphaned polar bear cub. The special effects and editing are spectacular; really, every white-knuckled scene is so realistic that you’re pulled right in.

Lots of fun. Nothing offensive. Great role for Birch as a strong, fearless girl who leads the way and keeps her head. Nice messaging about courage and inner strength. There are some scary moments for younger kids, and the bad guys who pose a nasty threat might give them pause... I’d say just show it early enough that they follow it up with some other images in their heads before trotting off to bed. Just to be safe.

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