This overly sentimental comedy from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment resembles a watered-down, terrestrial remake of ET (1982).
It’s a rehash of the old “innocent monster versus savage and uncaring civilisation” tract, in which a Seattle family adopts America’s answer to the abominable snowman and suffers the ludicrous consequences while trying to keep it a secret from the neighbours.
There’s a dumb subplot about professional Bigfoot hunter, Jacques Lafleur (David Suchet) who dreams only of killing Harry. Lafleur skulks about the neighbourhood, hiding in bushes, brandishing his rifle and engaging in debates with an old scientist (Don Ameche) who once saw Bigfoot and now runs a Bigfoot souvenir stand. Another fairly unnecessary supporting character is the nosy neighbour, played by Lainie Kazan.
There are some nice moments in the film, contributed by John Lithgow and Melinda Dillon as the adult Hendersons, but they’re offset by the obnoxious qualities of the Henderson kids (Margaret Langrick and Joshua Rudoy), who seem to be aiming for Drew Barrymore and hitting Dennis the Menace.
Harry and the Hendersons is even cosier and cutesier than the Spielberg norm, which is perhaps the reason why it became a short-lived TV sitcom.
The saving grace is seven-foot-two-inch actor Kevin Peter Hall – the alien in Predator (1987) opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger – who works miracles in Chewbacca drag as Harry the Missing Link, and his endearingly emotive face is the one pure joy to behold in this altogether mushy affair.
Sitting through the last ten minutes is like being lowered into a vat of molasses.
Kevin Peter Hall
Dr Wallace Wrightwood
George Henderson Sr
M Emmet Walsh