The Bear Necessities
Park ranger Jack Wedloe (Dean Cain) is looking after his young nephew Mark (Reiley McClendon) for the summer after his parents go missing whilst in Indonesia and whilst Mark gets on with his Uncle he is not use to living in the country where food is what you catch and entertainment is what goes on outside the window. Fortunately Mark makes friends with a young girl called Ashley (Cody Weiant) and they go exploring together. It is how they come across a trapped bear which Mark rescues and befriends. The trouble is that Ashley's father Fog Benson (Corbin Bernsen) is the local big businessman and sheep farm owner who believes a bear is killing his sheep and knowing that Jack is more into conservation than killing plans to take matters in to his own hands even if bears are protected species.
I kind of remember watching the re-runs of "Gentle Ben" as a kid or if truth be told I remember Clint Howard as young Mark Wedloe rather than any of the detail or stories. That probably works in my favour when it comes to the 2002 made for TV update on the old TV series as I had no great memories to be destroyed by this re-imagining. But the thing is that within seconds of it starting I knew that all they had done with "Gentle Ben: Terror on the Mountain" is use the same formula that was used in "Flipper" and "Free Willy" which makes it extremely predictable for those who grew up on "animal" movies.
But here is the thing about "Gentle Ben: Terror on the Mountain" it works. For young children the story of Mark living with his Uncle, getting to know nature, making friends with Ashley and having adventures whilst saving the bear will be simply fun. For grown ups there will be lots of beautiful footage of nature as well as the innocence of the movie which will remind them of their own childhood and favourite movies. Plus for grown ups there is also the casting with Dean Cain doing nice guy whilst Ashley Laurence is country hot as his sort of girlfriend Dakota and there is also the likes of Martin Kove and Gil Birmingham who add to the familiarity and warmth.
In truth as I sit here reviewing "Gentle Ben: Terror on the Mountain" I feel like I should be disappointed by the fact that it sticks to the formula used more times than I care to remember but I am not. I am admittedly a sucker for innocent movies which are charming and fun for all the family and there is something simple and beautiful about this movie which works with Reiley McClendon and Cody Weiant doing a nice job as are young stars and they work so well with a whole array of animals.
What this all boils down to is that "Gentle Ben: Terror on the Mountain" is a lot of innocent, old fashioned charming fun. Yes it takes an incredibly over used formula of the upset kid bonding with an animal but it does it very well and with a lot of simply charming performances from the likes of Dean Cain and Ashley Laurence there is something for all the family.