A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gentle Giant is a prequel to the Gentle Ben television series and includes some violence -- rifleplay, a fistfight, and a bear getting shot and killed. One of the antagonists often appears drunk and surly. Still, as far as '60s films with animals go, Gentle Giant is a quaint slice of nostalgia. Not only that, but the film stars a 7-year-old Clint Howard!
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What's the story?
While hiding in a tree in a nature preserve in the Florida Everglades, 7-year-old Mark Wedloe (Clint Howard) sees three poachers shoot and kill a bear and kidnap a cub. Mark visits the garage where the bear is kept chained and gives it food and affection. A bond forms, but no one believes Mark when he says that the bear is friendly. When the bear's captor -- a drunkard named Fog Hanson -- claims he wants to kill the bear and sell its meat -- Mark frees the bear and tries to lead him to safety in the wilderness. But the bear follows Mark, and Mark decides to name him Ben. Mark must somehow prove to his parents, and the small fishing village where he lives, that Ben is a kind bear and would never hurt anyone.
Is it any good?
While nothing extraordinary, GENTLE GIANT is a quaint slice of '60s "boy and his bear" filmmaking. It's one of those movies where wild animals are possessed with incredible capacities for affection and understanding human speech, where the lines between good guys and bad guys are clearly demarcated, and the young boy (the great B-Movie actor Clint Howard, no less) steals every scene with adorably precocious one-liners. It doesn't tearjerk like similar films from that era, and the violence is relatively tame.
Yes, some of the action is a bit cheesy and dated, and you can almost see the man inside the bear suit in some of the scenes, but on its own terms, and for fans of these kinds of films, no matter your age, Gentle Giant is still an entertaining film for the whole family.
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