This kids adventure movie was an Australian ode to Spielberg’s wildly successful 1980s Amblin Entertainment film roster (E.T., The Goonies, Gremlins etc) and it emulated that winning formula well. I loved this film when I originally saw it, say…oh…25 years ago but it gradually faded off into the mists of time and memory. Then I came across it by accident (on YouTube!) and nostalgia got the better of me. I hit PLAY. And loved the movie all over again! The story follows the white-knuckle adventures of 14 year old Cody, played by E.T.s Henry Thomas (Elliot). Cody is a bright and daring American orphan living with a friend of his deceased parents in Australia, where he has developed an aptitude for engineering and mechanics…much to the dismay of local law enforcement. During an exploring trip with two neighborhood sisters, he comes upon a murky pond hidden in the jungle…and a dead body. From there, he sets out to discover the rumors and evidence of a mysterious beast living in the darkened depths. This movie was a lot of fun to revisit after SO long and I was pleasantly surprised at some of the content. There was a bit more swearing and adult situations than I was expecting and some of the not-so-savory aspects of the kids behaviour was hilarious. Like the precocious younger sister who sneaks cigarettes and swears like a champ when she’s not deliberately trying to scare the life out of her dimwit mother. Henry Thomas is great in the main role, bringing a capable maturity to his self-reliant and resourceful (but still a kid) adventurer character and the Australian cast that surrounds him more than step up to the task. One thing I found slightly perplexing (now that I’m old enough to see it) was the strange celebration of the Aboriginal people, while off-setting it with an almost naive hint of racism. Even Cody just casually refers to them as ‘blacks’, despite seeking out their ancient knowledge of the area and the ‘dream time’. It was an odd mix that I felt strangely added to the adult undercurrent of the film…political correctness be damned! The filmmakers made sure to show their love for the Aussie wildlife with LOTS of random footage of creatures (frogs, lizards, birds etc) intercut among the light drama and suspense. And speaking of footage, this flick makes good use of some surprisingly eerie underwater scenes; especially when Cody takes a trip to the bottom of the REALLY murky pond in a home-made diving helmet to test a theory about the ‘monster’. Some people could potentially see the beasts ‘reveal’ to be underwhelming, but I found it to be refreshing and NEARLY believeable. The little touches of ‘genuine’ Aboriginal magic were cool too…as the film seemed intent on capitalizing on the mysterious aspects of the ‘noble savage’. Overall, it was a treat to rediscover this childhood favorite and to anyone who digs this type of movie (done well) from THAT time period…should definitely either revisit it…or see it for the first time.
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