The Quest

1986, Movie, PG, 93 mins

Review

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This technically-challenged Australian children's film with a mythical monster that won't siphon any tourist trade away from Loch Ness. Raised by his guardian, Gaza (Tony Barry), in an Australian suburb, orphaned American Cody Walpole (Henry Thomas), 14, spends all his spare time tinkering with inventions. His brakeless railroad-track bicycle attracts the attention of worried police, who warn him to find a safer hobby. In fact, Cody's brainstorms become so notorious that the parents of his best friends, Wendy (Rachel Friend) and Jane Cannon (Tamsin West), forbid them to play with him. Because kids will be disobedient kids, the Cannon girls accompany Cody on a jaunt to faraway Woods Point, where Cody stumbles upon the corpse of an old family friend, Neville (Peter Cummins). Cody wonders how his hermit pal died, and hang on every word of the local Aborigines. They regale him with stories about Donkeygin, the creature that guards the lake, and introduce him to the notion of dreamtime, a kind of alternate reality that exists alongside the day-to-day world. Cody travels down river with the them and even wanders the woods past his bedtime in the hopes of spotting the beast. After consulting Mr. Kauffman (David Ravenswood), an expert in underground streams, Cody decides to use his knowledge of hydraulics to locate the creature, photograph it and make the cover of National Geographic. Cody persuades Wendy to help him investigate the murky waters, but Cody never resurfaces after his first dive using a home-made diving helmet. Wendy rallies the townspeople, but the key to rescuing Cody is understanding the "monster"'s nature — it's a random mass of discarded junk animated by natural forces and willed into being by people's propensity to accept a bizarre or supernatural explanation rather than looking for a scientific answer. Young Thomas' unengaging performance as a science brat is this low-key film's weak link; an adolescent who seriously jeopardizes his own life and the lives of others needs to compensate with a whole lot of charm that Thomas can't seem to summon. Despite poor reviews, this film struck a chord with many young viewers who later helped make it a popular video title. Cody's quest introduces him to the leave a comment --Robert Pardi

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