Birch's Bear Necessities
Following the death of his wife, pilot Jake Barnes (Dirk Benedict - Earthstorm) and his children, Jessie (Thora Birch - Clear and Present Danger) and Sean (Vincent Kartheiser) have left Chicago for Alaska which hasn't gone down well with Sean who can't adjust to his new life and misses the city. But one night Jake, having done one of his delivery flights through the mountains, doesn't return home and has crashed somewhere near Devil's Thumb. With the search party giving up it is Jessie and Sean along with a polar bear cub that they befriended after rescuing it from hunter Perry (Charlton Heston) who head to the mountains in search of their father.
I've mentioned this before but there are times when I wish I could leap back a decade or three and experience a movie as intended or at the right age. Take "Alaska" as this is one of those children's adventure movies where in this case a couple of kids brave nature, climb mountains, ride rapids and so on in order to rescue their father, something the grown ups couldn't do. If I had been between 10 and 13 years old in 1996 I would have probably loved it but as a forty something in 2014 I found it less than enthralling with the cinematography being the best part of the movie.
The thing about "Alaska" is that it ticks 99% of the boxes needed for this sort of movie. We have the plucky kids who whilst doing some above average things, like riding rapids, come across as normal kids with normal kid issues. We also have plenty of nature to be impressed by and talking of being impressed there is that cinematography which does such a fantastic job of showing of the beauty of Alaska that I am sure if I had the money in my account I would have booked a trip there immediately. I could go on because it almost feels that before "Alaska" was made the producers and director sat down and wrote a list of must have elements and made sure they were in there.
If what I just said is the case it makes "Alaska" what it is, a functional but shallow movie as it is lacking in depth. And that depth comes from the fact not a single character has any depth, yes Sean is an angry kid who doesn't want to be in Alaska but that is it. It means that the cast which includes Charlton Heston and Dirk Benedict basically bring their celebrity status to the movie rather than delivering a character. On the subject of acting legend Charlton Heston it is his son Fraser Clarke Heston who is directing this. As for the child actors, well Thora Birch and Vincent Kartheiser are solid and play their parts well but because there is no depth to their parts they tend to fade from your memory soon after this is finished.
What this all boils down to is that "Alaska" is a generic children's adventure movie which ticks a lot of boxes and in truth works for its intended audience. But for grown ups that end up having to watch this, the lack of character depth makes it a shallow experience.