Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar hits theaters this weekend, and even though some critics have been harsh, it still has a relatively respectable 73 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Odds are high it’s going to do very well at the box office, even though the nearly three-hour running time limits how many times it can play per night.
The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine and John Lithgow. The last name got us thinking about Lithgow’s most memorable movie. We’re not talking about This Is 40, A Civil Action, Cliffhanger or Terms of Endearment. We’re talking, of course, about 1987’s Harry and the Hendersons. For those unfamiliar with the picture, it’s about a family that befriends a kindly Bigfoot-like creature and does everything they can to protect it from a cruel world bent on destroying poor Harry.
If you were a child in the 1980s you probably have a special place in your heart for Harry and the Hendersons, but Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were well past their childhood years by 1987 and they were unimpressed. “I saw this movie with an adoring crowd,” said Siskel. “But I didn’t buy that much of it. It’s no E.T. Harry, the ape, reminded of the big orangutan in Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose, but that ape was a whole lot funnier…It’s a very manipulative movie that anyone whose seen E.T. has seen before.”
Roger Ebert agreed. “What it lacks is any sense of awe about the fact there could be a Bigfoot, an unknown creature living in the woods with a mind of it’s own,” he said. “We’re interacting with, essentially, a wind-up toy. Harry is so cute, so gentle, so lovable that there is no sense of mystery and no sense of awe. There’s no belief that he’s really Bigfoot.”
Audiences disagreed and Harry and the Hendersons made $50 million, which was pretty good for a 1987 movie with a relatively low budget. The movie ends with Harry going off into the woods and finding all sorts of other similar creatures, perfectly setting up a sequel that we’re still waiting to see. It’s probably going to be a long wait.