Loosely based on Hanna-Barbera’s YOGI BEAR, GRIZZLY is the story of an uptight forest ranger (Christopher George) who just can’t stand that a bear is running around his woods living the free, unencumbered life of fun that his conformist philosophy won’t allow him. This is the more realistic BATMAN BEGINS version though so Yogi doesn’t talk or wear a hat or tie. Instead he’s 15 feet tall and weighs over a ton. Instead of stealing pic-a-nic baskets he steals people, by which I mean he eats them. Boo Boo is not a major character but is represented by a bear cub who some yokel hunters decide to capture and use as bait for Yogi. Yogi’s wiseass response? He eats Boo Boo.
Okay, I guess more than YOGI BEAR it’s based on JAWS. The Roy Scheider would be the forest ranger, because he’s the guy who takes responsibility and nobody takes him seriously enough. I guess the Richard Dreyfus would be Richard Jaeckel’s character Scotty, because he’s the animal expert. He’s actually the best character because he’s a weirdo, he crawls around the woods with a bear skin over him, trying to go deep undercover. Doesn’t really seem to work though.
It would be cool if he interacted with the bear, and there’s tense sequences where they almost see through his disguise or he doesn’t know some normal bear thing like which berries to eat or how to catch fish or something, so his cover almost gets blown. Or they test him by forcing him to maul somebody. You’d hope he’s gonna weasel out of it some way but then he goes through with it and you think oh shit man, Scotty’s in too deep, he’s gone over the edge. I mean you know how undercover guys can get out of control and forget which side they’re on, that is definitely a possibility for Scotty here. At the end he would have really bonded with this bear and his loyalties would be torn between man and bearkind. Ultimately I believe he would revert to his human side and would set the bear up to be shot by the hunters or something. But the bear would look Scotty in the eye, betrayed. As if to ask why? I thought you were my friend. You sonofabitch you’ll pay for this. I loved you you sonofabitch, I loved you. And Scotty would look down at the ground, knowing he was scum of the earth. There’s no putting in a good word with the judge for this bear. And this bear doesn’t have a wife to give the money too. And there’s no money either. You fuckin blew it, Scotty. Fuck you.
Scotty’s more laid back than Dreyfus, and doesn’t have people skills. He falls asleep during important meetings, just getting into character I guess. I don’t think they show him scratching his back on a tree or stealing honey, though.
Quint I guess would be the Vietnam vet chopper pilot who betrays his vow of nonviolence to help out. He’s not as big of a character as Quint was, though. Instead of a greedy resort owner keeping the beach open it’s an incompetent mayor keeping the woods open.
The director is Willaim Girdler, who also did DAY OF THE ANIMALS and I might watch that but only if somebody swears it’s better than this one. Obviously this is no JAWS, or ORCA either. You can’t expect JAWS-level characters or filmatism, so instead I hoped for some enjoyable bear mauling. I mean, it’s funny to see a quick swing of bear claw and then a separate shot of an arm or head flying, but it’s not enough to sustain a movie. They didn’t build an animatronic bear so instead you gotta make do with POV shots and closeups of a real bear. And he’s big but clearly not as prehistorically giant as they claim he is. Unless maybe the trees in the background were supposed to also be giant. And also the helicopter. And it had magnifying windows to make the people inside look giant.
Nearly all the main characters bite it except for the ranger’s girlfriend. It’s funny, she wants to go along to take pictures, and he won’t let her, he forces her to stay behind for safety (because of she’s a girl). She’s offended because she knows she’s actually a Strong Women, but to my surprise she doesn’t show up in the woods and get herself into trouble but then ultimately save the day. You never hear about her again. I figure she probly survives, although who knows who the bear is eating while he’s off screen. It’s possible he went to her house and ate her, then the ranger’s gonna feel like a real dick for telling her to stay home.
Scotty gets it the worst. The bear scratches him up, then buries him. Later he regains consciousness and you think “Oh good, he survived.” Then the bear lunges at him and it cuts to the others finding his fucked up corpse.
I mean, this is a maniac bear, and most likely one with an eating disorder. It’s just unhealthy how many people this thing eats. I worry about him. Plus as he gets older his metabolism is changing, he’s gonna get real fat.
I wouldn’t really recommend this movie, but the end is a keeper. He stupidly lands the chopper near the bear, only to have it attacked. The bear stands upright, the perfect set up for a chopper-blade-bear-beheading that goes unrealized. But he does blow the bear to shit with a bazooka (and unconvincing editing). That’s a definite rewinder there. Then he walks away from the flaming wreckage, the last man or bear standing. For a second he allows himself a half-smile of satisfaction, then looks grim. Poor Yogi.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.