Neither kids nor adults are likely to find much to hold their attention in SPIRIT OF THE EAGLE, a dull, slow-moving wilderness drama starring Dan Haggerty of GRIZZLY ADAMS fame as a frontier cartographer whose best pal is a golden eagle.
Big Eli McDonaugh (Haggerty) and his son, Little Eli (Trever Yarrish), have braved the wilderness together following the death of Eli's wife. After a year spent with relatives, Little Eli rejoins Big Eli to have some pseudo-excitement that starts when Big Eli leaves his son alone at their cabin
homestead while he goes out to draw some pictures of rivers. When he gets back, Little Eli is gone, kidnapped by Big Eli's old nemesis, crusty river pirate One-Eye Hachett (Bill Smith), and sold to some village. Confusingly, Eli has to fight village brave Running Wolf (Don Shanks) to regain his
son, even though a village elder turns out to be an old friend of Eli's family. Eli then goes hunting for Hachett, who ambushes Eli, wounding him in the shoulder. Eli's eagle-pal, Lady, returns, Lassie-style, to bring Little Eli and friendly, cute and shapely village squaw Watawana (Jerry
Arrendondo) to the rescue. With the later help of Running Wolf, they bring Big Eli back to the village.
While recovering from his wound, Big Eli has a dream telling him to go west with his son. Father and son soon embark on their journey, followed by the faithful Watawana, whom, for inexplicable reasons, they have tried to leave behind. Their journey is briefly interrupted by the expected showdown
with One-Eye, which leaves the Elis victorious but Lady with a shoulder wound. Back at the cabin, Lady undergoes her slow recovery while the Elis and Watawana watch anxiously. But, to the amazement of no one, she recovers to soar once again as the end credits creep over the screen.
Despite eye-catching Oregon locations, outdoor exhilaration soon turns to slack-jawed boredom in this routinely scripted, slackly directed and indifferently acted wilderness adventure that has plenty of wilderness and virtually no action. Despite some token narration by Eli in adulthood, there is
no discernible point of view on the action. The film instead follows Big Eli much of the time, even when the real excitement is elsewhere, as when, while Little Eli is being kidnapped, we're forced to stay with Big Eli drawing his rivers. Big Eli's conflict with Hachett, established in the film's
first scene, is never developed, then absentmindedly dropped until the final scene. When the big showdown does come, it's hardly worth waiting for, consisting of some listless grappling before Hachett's stunt double is swept down a raging river that, only seconds earlier, was a gentle brook.
Besides the obviously pinched budget and meandering script, Haggerty looks woefully out of shape for an action hero. He always seems winded even though the script never really calls on him to do anything that is particularly strenuous. It may be about time for ole Grizzly to pack it in and find
himself a Holiday Inn where he can live out his waning years in leisure. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG
- Review: Neither kids nor adults are likely to find much to hold their attention in SPIRIT OF THE EAGLE, a dull, slow-moving wilderness drama starring Dan Haggerty of GRIZZLY ADAMS fame as a frontier cartographer whose best pal is a golden eagle. Big Eli McDonaug… (more)