Wild America | Movies | Palo Alto Online |

Movie Review

Wild America

Whole star
Rated PG for language and some adventure peril. 1 hour, 46 minutes.
Publication date: Jul. 4, 1997
Review by Jim Shelby
Released: (1997)

This is a harmless kid's adventure movie/family drama that shamelessly wrestled from me a couple of tears, and might be scary for very young children (angry bears and snakes). It's really several "Lassie" episodes (without the collie) braided together to make one full-length picture. Even the mom (Frances Fisher) reminded me of June Lockhart as she dries her hands on her apron, watching her boys grow. A few of the episodes are described here:

1) Protagonist Marshall Stouffer (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the kid from "Home Improvement") nurses injured wild animals back to health with his unique touch, only to regret when they return to the wild. "It was strong enough; it had to go home, Marshall."

2) Marshall is forced to act as crash dummy and stunt double for his reckless older brothers' 8mm movies. He not only gets back at them in clever scatological ways, but two college girls scold the older brothers for being stupid--and coo over Marshall.

3) Older brother Marty falls in love with a 16mm camera, and with Mom's help, convinces Dad to loan him the money so he can follow his dream of being a wildlife filmmaker.

4) Marty ignores Dad's wishes that he take over his carburetor business; he leaves with brother Mark to film endangered species all over America and sell the film to a TV program. Marshall has stowed away in their station wagon.

5) The boys film alligators, grizzlies, moose, stampeding horses, and hippies, and with Mom's help, show their film at the local high school to universal acclaim. Even Dad is supportive.

6) Dad is injured in an accident and totals the truck. The family has to pull together to keep the bills paid. "This could break us, son. . . . I'm countin' on ya."

7) Dad has been tinkering on a plane in the barn with Marshall for years, telling him fabricated stories of his experience as a pilot. Marshall takes the plane out and flies it perfectly first time, circling the hospital to give Dad, who was never actually a pilot, some inspiration. He tells the truth to Marshall, who understands.

First-time screenwriter David Michael Wieger has a rich career in television ahead of him.

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