An engaging documentary about a maverick inventor. Nominated for a Genie Award (Canada's Oscar) and a festival-circuit/European cult hit before its direct-to-video release in the U.S., this sprightly portrait of bear researcher/scrap-metal dealer Troy Hurtubise has by most accounts including Hurtubise's helped turn its subject into a laughingstock. That may be a reasonable, if knee-jerk, reaction to the segments in which Hurtubise tests his sci-fi-looking anti-bear suit in a "Canada's Funniest Home Videos" parade of scenes in which the inventor is struck by logs, trucks, arrows and more. Yet a closer look tells a different tale. North Bay, Ontario: 13 years earlier, the talkative, square-jawed, 32-year-old Hurtubise survived a close encounter with a grizzly bear. Obsessed with the idea of up-close bear research, he began building a series of full-body suits designed to withstand teeth, claws and blunt force, as well as fire and falls off hillsides. Hurtubise likens his suits the latest version of which he dubs the "Ursus Mark VI" to the shark cages used by undersea researchers, and also speaks of applications ranging from volcano research to riot control. What's so wrong with or funny about that? Yet the film which is beautifully shot and scored, and dramatically paced spends less time considering Hurtubise's technical process and creativity than documenting the slapstick aspects of the testing process and observing Hurtubise's eccentricities: He demonstrates knife-throwing with a survivalist's passion, and one anecdote ends with him waking from a nightmare while camping and firing rifle blasts into the woods. There's also a weekend-warrior/boys 'n' toys feel to the final segment, in which Hurtubise and friends track a grizzly in order to field-test the Ursus Mark IV, and discover that the suit can't be kept balanced on uneven terrain. But Hurtubise's bravery and admirable persistence shine through it all: Any corporate clone or couch potato who sniggers at him is more the fool.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: NR
- Review: An engaging documentary about a maverick inventor. Nominated for a Genie Award (Canada's Oscar) and a festival-circuit/European cult hit before its direct-to-video release in the U.S., this sprightly portrait of bear researcher/scrap-metal dealer Troy Hurt… (more)