By Brian Costello,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Prequel to Gentle Ben series has some violence, drunkenness.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This film is intended to entertain, not educate.
Man's relationship to wild animals is explored here, as well as the importance of protecting animals from poachers.
Positive Role Models
Mark is a kind 7-year-old boy who will do anything to protect Ben from being hurt or killed by those who wish to do him harm. His father, Tom, finds work as a conservation officer, and clearly has a deep love for the nature around him in the Florida Everglades.
Violence & Scariness
A bear is shot and killed by rifle-shooting poachers. When the poachers leave, a 7-year-old boy runs up to the bear, touches it, and gets his hands covered in blood. A fist fight breaks out in a fishery -- three men are tossed into the harbor. A bear is beaten with a stick; while contact isn't shown, it is strongly implied. A bear attacks a man who is trying to kill him; the man's clothes get torn. A man fires a rifle and a tree falls on top of his leg. A snake in the grass hisses at a boy and nearly bites him.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One of the characters in the film acts visibly and audibly drunk during much of the film. This character mentions giving beer to the bear he has chained in his garage. Another character is seen holding a can of beer. Three characters stand outside of a bar, acting intoxicated and surly.
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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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Where to Watch
Based on 2 parent reviews
No film for kids; drugs moments
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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.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about films featuring kids and animals, and bears in particular. How is Gentle Giant similar to and different than other films like these?
How realistic is this movie?
If Gentle Giant was remade today, how would it be different from the original?
- On DVD or streaming: October 25, 1967
- Cast: Clint Howard, Dennis Weaver, Vera Miles
- Director: James Neilson
- Studio: Republic Pictures Home Video
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Wild Animals
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 25, 2022
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