on August 16, 1996 by Carole Glines
The folks behind "Alaska" have created a film of picture-postcard beauty, but fine location work ultimately can't compensate for a lame screenplay. This movie's effect onscreen is like a bad painting sitting in a gorgeous frame.
After the death of his wife, ex-Chicagoan Jake Barnes (Dirk Benedict) struggles to rebuild a life for himself and his two teenage children, Jessie ("Monkey Trouble's" Thora Birch) and Sean (Vincent Kartheiser) by flying supplies to remote locations in Alaska. Sean hates their new home and argues with his father, but he's devastated when Jake's plan disappears on a supply run. After the adults in their Alaskan town have given up searching for Jake, Sean and Jessie embark on a long quest to find him. Along the way, they befriend a baby polar bear, whose life is threatened by an evil poacher, Perry (Charlton Heston).
This Castle Rock production is wholesome family adventure fare, but its naive storyline will annoy most adults. The film's children and native Alaskans in this film always know best; in one jaw-droppingly irresponsible plot twist, an Indian elder goes along with Sean and Jessie's plan to find their dad, knowing they could easily perish in the wild.
The scenery is so picturesque that you can't help but enjoy parts of "Alaska" that show it to best advantage. But the plot wheels keep turning in a slow, tiresome way. The cuddly polar bear's appearances become laughable, as the animal keeps following the kids wherever they go--no matter how many hundreds of miles they travel. Still, children shouldn't be bothered by the inconsistencies, and they'll probably enjoy watching Birch and Kartheiser kayaking along rivers, sliding down mountains, and fighting the harsh elements.
Under his son Fraser's direction, Charlton Heston adds some star power in one of his rare "heavy" parts. It's amazing after all these years to still see the screen legend's physical vigor. Benedict, best known for his TV hunk appeal on such shows as "Battlestar Galactica" and "The A-Team," has disappointingly little screen time. The really big parts in the film go those sporting the full-lipped look suitable for teen idolhood; girls will no doubt soon be drooling over Kartheiser in Tiger Beat Magazine. Starring Thora Birch, Vincent Kartheiser, Dirk Benedict and Charlton Heston. Directed by Fraser C. Heston. Written by Andy Burg and Scott Myers. Produced by Carol Fuchs, Gordon Mark and Andy Burg. A Columbia release. Adventure. Rated PG for some mild language, and for adventure/peril. Running time: 105 min.
Tags: nature, scenery, adventure, Alaska, mountains, Thora Birch, Vincent Kartheiser, Dirk Benedict, Charlton Heston, Fraser C. Heston, animals

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