The Legend Of Gator Face

1996, Movie, PG, 100 mins

Review

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THE LEGEND OF GATOR FACE is a derivative and innocuous, but quite watchable, children's fantasy-adventure about a mythical half-man, half-gator creature that lives in the swamps of a small southern town.

Danny (John White) and Phil (Dan Warry-Smith), two mischievous friends, are on summer vacation and looking for some pranks to pull. An old hermit named Bob (Paul Winfield) who lives in a shack on the swamp, tells them about the legend of Gator Face, a half-man, half-alligator creature that supposedly has been haunting the area for 50 years. As a joke, Danny and Phil make an alligator costume which Phil wears to terrorize the town. The sheriff (C. David Johnson), who is Danny's dad, forms a posse after the boys scare three campers in the woods, and the story makes the news. Phil goes out by himself one night and Danny runs after him, but when he trips and is about to be bitten by a rattlesnake, the real Gator Face (Matt Evans) appears and saves Danny's life. Danny tells Phil about the real Gator Face, but he doesn't believe him. After Phil scares the mayor's wife (Pam Hyatt) in his costume, the mayor (Roger Dunn) calls in the National Guard.

Danny takes Phil back into the swamp to look for Gator Face; they find him trapped in a net. Danny cuts him loose, and Danny, Phil, and another friend, devise a plan to rescue Gator Face. Danny dresses in the fake costume and lures the National Guard to an old barn, where he has painted the words: "I tricked you. I was a joke--Gator Face" on the wall, but when he runs inside the barn, the townsfolk set the barn on fire, trapping Danny inside. Phil tells Danny's dad that Danny's inside and he tries to rescue him, but the fire is too strong. Suddenly, Gator Face shows up and carries Danny to safety. One of the soldiers shoots the creature and he dies. A strange noise is heard in the swamp and the skies start to swirl. The bullet hole in Gator Face closes up and he is revived. Danny and his friends form a human shield around Gator Face and urge the National Guard to let the creature go. They do.

THE LEGEND OF GATOR FACE is a blatant E.T. rip-off (even down to a shot where Danny and the creature touch fingers), but it's a surprisingly effective children's movie nevertheless. With its blue eyes, benign expressions, and magical connection with children, the creature looks like a cross between E.T. and a gentle, baby Godzilla. The story has the usual cliched lessons about tolerance for those who are different (i.e., Bob, the black hermit, and the Gator Face), but it's not too preachy or heavy-handed (until the protracted finale) and the emphasis is on lighthearted adventure from a child's point-of-view. The creature looks like a leftover from the 1959 schlock classic THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE, and is only marginally more convincing than the costume that Danny and Phil make. At 100 minutes, the film is at least 10 minutes too long, but the direction is competent and the cast is likable. The atmosphere of kids looking for some summer fun and excitement in a sleepy rural town is captured fairly well. (Violence.) leave a comment

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The Legend Of Gator Face
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