Courage Mountain is one of many well-made movies that have fallen into the black oblivion of cinema history. A sequel to Heidi, the beloved classic that makes many people think of Shirley Temple, it tells the story of a teenage Heidi who is sent to boarding school in Italy, during World War One. But circumstances force Heidi and her new school friends to embark on a dangerous journey through the warring countryside, bound for the mountain that will take them safely to Heidi's homeland of Switzerland.
One of the prime delights in this movie is the splendid scenery, with sweeping views of the Alps from all sorts of different angles. As for the movie itself, it has a compelling enough plot, and one certainly appealing to the family audience- courageous children fighting against all odds to find freedom during troubling times. The characters are interesting and somewhat Dickensian, though at times you feel like we move to the next scene before we've had a chance to really get to know any of them. Fortunately, most of the cast is excellent, especially 15-year-old Juliette Caton, who plays Heidi, and the other four girls (who are these wonderful actresses, and why didn't we see them again after this movie?). Leslie Caron (remember An American in Paris?) is nice as the warm-hearted headmistress, and Jan Rubes is the perfect Grandfather. And three cheers for another marvelous but relatively unknown actor, Yorgo Voyagis (perhaps most widely seen as Jospeh in the epic miniseries Jesus of Nazareth), who plays the villainous factory owner to wicked perfection.
The only actor who is completely out of place is the actor who gets his name at the front of the credits, Charlie Sheen. Perhaps it's the fact that he doesn't even try to hide his American accent, or perhaps it's because he is playing an 18-year-old when he is actually in his mid-twenties (at the time). Or perhaps it is an attempt to have a "star" so that the movie will be easier to promote (a device that never works).
Surprisingly enough, Mr. Sheen is not in the movie very much. And everything else is really a worthwhile adventure for the entire family, without any pesky off-color jokes and bad language (a rarity in family movies these days). And be sure to listen to the music. It's just as majestic as the mountains.
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