Escape from Alaska - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Escape from Alaska Reviews

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October 15, 2011
The secret to a happy marriage is compromise. Unfortunately, sometimes that means you have to sit through some very bad movies. Avalanche (aka Escape from Alaska) is the latest sacrifice I've made for the sake of my marriage. It's billed as an action thriller, but a better description might be "unintentional camp comedy." If any movie ever needed an exclamation point in the title, it's this one.

I don't normally go for synopses, but I'll try to do this as quickly as possible: Neal Meekin (Griffith) and Jack (Howell) are best buds. Lia (Feeney) and Jack are engaged, but she and Neal may have a history. Jack and Lia get caught in an avalanche and Neal is too late to save Jack, but rescues Lia. She blames Neal for Jack's death and disappears. Two years later, she's with the EPA and-oh, forget it. You'll have figured out the rest by now.

Avalanche! is a sort of Steven Seagal environmental movie rehash (On Deadly Ground) with B-movie martial arts guy Thomas Ian Griffith playing the Seagal role and without the Inuit. Now I happen to have enjoyed Griffith in Hollow Point opposite Tia Carrere, but I think he needs a script that plays to his strengths. (Or maybe I'm just being generous because I like the guy.) Here he is passable as the flippant regular guy/everyman bush pilot (who just happens to crash nearly every aircraft he straps on), but I can't help but think there should have been at least one martial arts battle. Hell, he doesn't even use a gun.

The mostly awful script has a decent moment or two, but the majority of the acting is painfully bad. Feeney seems to be made of wood. Howell-well, I'm happy he's still plugging away. R. Lee Ermey (who was also in On Deadly Ground) is obviously walking through his role for the paycheck. (The climactic line he yells is so bad that I don't think anyone could have pulled it off.) John Ashton (the unwitting boss) and Geoffrey Lower (the evil underboss) are at least believable, and Hilary Shepard gets off the best line in the whole movie when she tells Meekin, whom she thinks is dumping her for Lia, "Just own it."

Because the title is AVALANCHE!!! (sorry-couldn't help myself), we get a lot of stock footage of not one, but three or four or even five avalanches (I lost count)-one of which lasts 10 minutes and pretty much blankets Juneau, Alaska, detonating many miniature buildings in the process. Frankly, I didn't see all that much snow above Juneau, and I wasn't aware that an avalanche (fueled by "the awesome power of nature," no less) had the power to destroy big concrete buildings. Maybe it's just me, but if the choice is between hunkering down in a concrete-and-steel refinery and running for my life out in the open-well, you do the math. The worst part, though, is the use of obvious miniatures and bad visual effects. The SFX technology might have been state of the art in Willow, but this movie was made in 1999.

In the climactic man (and woman) vs. nature scene, Meekin (too close to "merkin" for my taste) and Lia place explosive charges on the mountain to reroute the inevitable avalanche and save Juneau from impending doom, but there's no telling whether it actually worked, because mini-Juneau still gets smothered by buckets of Christmas tree flocking. (They should have used baking soda for scale.)

All that aside, Avalanche does have a few things going for it: It's shot well and, SFX notwithstanding, doesn't have the look of a low-budget movie (I think you know what I mean). The scenery is beautiful (if you like snow-and director Kroschel obviously has a love affair with it). The polar bear attack was pretty effective, and the arctic fox and wolf cub scenes made my wife go all gooey. (And was that a Kodiak marmoset I spied?) The second avalanche was instructive, because it allowed me to tell my wife, "If we're ever in a helicopter and we're about to be swept away by an avalanche, yelling at me to 'hurry up and take off' is not going to make the engines spool up any faster."

But best of all, she will always know I love her because I'll forever be able to say, "But honey-I sat through Avalanche with you!"

It must be an avalanche weekend, because now she's watching Buried Alive (with Jack Wagner and Gabrielle Carteris) on Lifetime ("Where actors' careers go to die"). And although the effects looked better, I've had quite enough, thanks. So I definitely won't be watching Snowbound, despite Erika Eleniak's leading role.
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