80s US Bracket: Never Cry Wolf (1983)

The first film in my first match-up in the third round of the 80s US Bracket is all about a naked guy running with some caribou!

Screenplay By: Sam Hamm, Curtis Hanson, & Richard Kletter
Directed By: Carroll Ballard

I spent the majority of Never Cry Wolf wanting Charles Martin Smith to shut up, but he kept talking and talking. It wasn’t until near the end of the movie that my wife voiced why I was struggling with his narration so much, “he is so emo.” Her words hit me like a ton of bricks, Smith’s character was super whiny even when he didn’t mean to be. He reminded me of the kids I knew growing up who preferred to sit in the corner of the lunchroom and mumble to themselves about the inadequacies of life. Obviously Martin, as Tyler, was out in the world doing something about the inadequacies that plagued him. The whining was still present though, and once my wife implanted the thought in my head I couldn’t get past the idea of Charles Martin Smith as an emo kid who just won’t shut up.

I know my opening paragraph makes it seem like I harbor no love for Never Cry Wolf whatsoever. That is not the case, I did come away from Never Cry Wolf liking it a fair bit and even loving certain aspects. I have my issues with the film, issues that I believe are rather sound, but it’s not a terrible film or a terrible experience. Charles Martin Smith isn’t as bad as I made him sound, his narration may get annoying but he plays his character rather well. He is a good entry point for the story, and his performance has moments of comedy peppered in between the poignancy.

The reason I wasn’t as impressed by Never Cry Wolf as some other people were boils down to how uneven I found the film to be. I think at a certain point I wanted a film that was completely willing to leave the narration and the story points behind to focus on the nature found in the story. That wasn’t this movie though, and that’s where the unevenness comes into play. There were certainly moments of poignancy and spots within Never Cry Wolf where I was deeply immersed in what was on my screen. Those moments were less than the moments where I found what was happening rather trite and forced. That doesn’t add up to a bad movie or a movie that one must avoid, but it does add up to an uneven picture that squandered a lot of opportunities to be a more well rounded film.

I’m not walking away from the experience of Never Cry Wolf upset, or wishing I had spent my time elsewhere. Never Cry Wolf is a picture of good quality, especially in its visuals and in its ability to capture the majority of its events naturally. There’s still the issue of the narration and of the artificial nature of Brian Dennehy (and friends) that never sat well with me. Interesting visuals and a few daring moments make Never Cry Wolf a picture worth your time but it’s too darn uneven.




5 responses to “80s US Bracket: Never Cry Wolf (1983)

  1. Mark Middlemas

    Sam Hamm and Curtis Hanson!?!?!?!? That’s an interesting team. The writer of Burton’s Batman (super over the top) verus Curtis Hanson who wrote and directed L.A. Confidential (also over the top in its own way). Curious.

    I remember kind of liking this movie. I actually have this on DVD somewhere…it’s one of those double sided DVDs, like a small laser disc, that requires you to flip it halfway through even though it’s a movie of average length. Weird.

  2. As a staunch supporter of Never Cry Wolf my ears perk up on the rare occasion someone bothers to see it. You’re certainly not alone in finding the narration a hindrance, it’s a complaint I’ve read many times before. In fact I’m quite certain I’m in the minority when I say the narration is one of the things I love about the film. I won’t make a case for it, I’m sure it wouldn’t do any good… you either like it or you don’t.

    Your secondary criticism about the film’s unevenness is one I can attest to. It’s a very stop and go film. After each lull (and there are lulls) it moves in a slightly different direction. The end result is film that zig-zags to the finish line. I think I’m used to it, and so it no longer bothers me.

    I’m glad it wasn’t a complete dud, but also disappointed it once again failed to really hit it’s mark.

    If Disney ever releases this on Blu-ray I’ll be a happy man. Mush!

  3. Mark: I’ve heard of double sided DVDs for long movies, but never for a movie that’s around an hour and forty five minutes, weird.

    Noff: I know this was a favorite of yours, and while I didn’t love it I did find things to enjoy about it and overall I did think it was a worthwhile experience.

  4. I really liked Never Cry Wolf. It is one of ferris’ favorites. I enjoyed it, but it never struck me personally either negatively or positively. It’s a great Disney live action, and I think it would make a great double feature with Into The Wild.

  5. That’s a good connection Steve, I could see Never Cry Wolf and Into The Wild working very well as a double feature.

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