Harry and the Hendersons (1987) – A Review


A review of the 1987 family comedy Harry and the Hendersons about a family finding a Bigfoot starring John Lithgow, Melinda Dillion and Don Ameche

Harry and the Hendersons 1987 Bigfoot comedy

An ordinary camping trip becomes the discovery of a lifetime when The Hendersons accidentally hit a Bigfoot! What would you do upon finding an eight-foot tall unconscious Bigfoot – well, take him home of course!

The hairy guest begins to make himself at home with the Hendersons and they learn he’s not a scary monster at all. ‘Harry’ soon becomes a beloved member of the family.

There are problems that come with Harry staying with them though. Along with breaking up the house and eating corsage’s, Harry is pursued by a Bigfoot hunter who won’t rest until he can track Harry down and kill him. The Henderson’s small Seattle town becomes panicked when Harry begins to make appearances all over the place. Can the Henderson’s protect Harry from becoming a giant stuffed trophy?

I find it a little hard to believe that this family comedy is the most popular Bigfoot movie that has been made. Where are the thrillers, the mysteries, the dramas about the discovery of a Bigfoot? Come on guys! Someone must be able to come up with some more stories about this mythic creature. Is the best they can think up for Bigfoot is him just watching television in a suburban home?

harry and the henderson 1987 bigfoot comedyAnyway, Harry and the Hendersons is a safe, innocuous little family-friendly flick. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s silly, it’s cute, it yanks at your heart and makes you want to go ‘aww’. Kids should love it. I showed this to my nephews and they thought it was a great movie.

It’s a pretty by-the-numbers story. I mean you shouldn’t be surprised as to how it’s told or how the story progresses. Family hits Harry, they take him home, at first their scared of him, then they learn he’s nice and start to like him Plenty of sight-gags of big old Harry wreaking the house. They try to keep him a secret. The mean Bigfoot hunter finds out where he is. Harry leaves. The family has to find him before he’s caught or killed. A narrow escape! The kindly old Bigfoot scholar arrives to help. The mean hunter is defeated. A tear-filled ending with Harry returning to his home in the woods.

Sorry if I spoiled anything. The original movie trailer is a perfect synopsis of the story though, so Universal didn’t feel like keeping a mystery of much of it to audiences in 1987- other than what Harry looked like!

I remember when this first hit theaters and they really tried to keep Harry’s appearance a secret. It was sort of like what they did with Gremlins – try to amp up people’s curiosity. That’s one aspect that has disappeared since it’s first theatrical run.

When me and the nephews were gearing up to watch it they kept asking me what will Harry look like. Their questions were immediately answered when the DVD was popped in and we all saw Harry’s big smiling mug on the menu screen. The big reveal in the movie was somewhat muted by that DVD menu. But what the heck the movie is practically thirty years old.

Along the way there are a few cute gags, but most of them are silly. Harry’s makeup by the great Rick Baker that Kevin Peter Hall had to wear is a success. The makeup and Hall’s performance makes Harry a pretty lovable character. There’s a nice music score by Bruce Broughton. John Lithgow and Melinda Dillion do their parts admirably.

John Lithgow Harry and the Hendersons 1987There are some cool little Spielberg-type of touches, not surprising since this came from Amblin Entertainment and frequent Spielberg cinematographer Allen Daviau worked on this.

The one Spielberg moment that really stood out to me was Harry’s first reveal as a flashlight is spinning on the kitchen floor and we just catch glimpses and shadows of Harry until the light finally rests on his face. That scene reminded me how they used a very similar technique in an early episode of Ash vs Evil Dead last year.

Around the midway mark I really thought the movie was starting to drag. When Harry leaves the Hendersons, he’s out on his own wandering around scared in the town and the police are closing in. It all felt padded out. I don’t think this needed to be an hour and fifty minutes. I really felt the films length at that point especially. Twenty or so minutes could have been cut from this.

I don’t have very much more to say about Harry and the Hendersons. I never saw it before and would never have watched it if it wasn’t for my nephews. It’s harmless, inoffensive entertainment. I guess there was demand for more Harry adventures since it later turned into TV show. I never saw that. And this time really have no plans of ever watching any of that TV series.


1 thought on “Harry and the Hendersons (1987) – A Review

  1. I remember the TV show, but can't say I want to revisit or the movie. One interesting thing is that not only did Rick Baker win the Oscar for Best Makeup for HARRY & THE HENDERSONS, but he also considers this is finest work onscreen. For that reason alone, I'd say HARRY is worth seeing but you're right in that it really is too juvenile and silly to rise about average. I'm surprised nobody has thought to remake this film, let alone try another Bigfoot on film story: I think the giant, mythical or not, deserves something more than HARRY and a couple of BOGGY CREEK films. Great review, once again!

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