Sunday, January 10, 2010
Day 307: Never Cry Wolf (1983) - Rank 4/5
"Never Cry Wolf" falls into that brief period of Disney history where the studio was endeavoring to shrug off the stereotype that it was only capable of lighter fare by descending into darker or more mature themes within its films (a push that ultimately led to the foundation of Touchstone). "The Black Hole" could easily be seen as the first step, though "Tron" and "The Black Cauldron" weren't "bring the little tykes" fare either. However, "Never Cry Wolf" differs in that there is nothing about it that smacks of Disney. There is no anthropomorphization of the wolves, no obligatory moments of cuteness to placate possible infants in the audience - it's just a straight docudrama on a biologist in the wild.
The film is certainly one of the better nature-oriented movies I've seen where the goal is neither to entertain audiences with animal antics nor inform as a straight-up documentary would. Instead, biologist Tyler is our principle and the audience follows him to the wilds of the Canadian Arctic as he goes to observe wolves in their natural habitat and deals with the difficulties of isolation. What sparked his mission was that the Canadian government was blaming the low numbers of caribou on the wolves, despite the fact that no scientist had ever seen wolves hunting in the wild (the film is based upon the memoirs of biologist Farley Mowat - the man who carried out this mission almost forty years earlier). Charles Martin Smith seems to undergo the same transformation through dedication that was seen in Emile Hirsch's performance in "Into the Wild." Brian Dennehy costars, but as is typically the case with Dennehy, he's playing Dennehy. Not to be scoffed is the cinematography of the Arctic landscape. There's a part of me that wishes I could have seen this flick on the big screen to appreciate the true scope of the film's backdrop. Despite a lot of positives, the film's message seems to pandering and preachy at times, and the fourth act feels far too abrupt. However, it cannot belittle the austere of the northern Canadian majesty and the touch of Aleutian mysticism that craftily works its way into the story.
Watch a Clip or Two