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Rae Dawn Chong
A FAILURE TO ENTERTAIN IS PERHAPS THE SLIGHTEST OF ITS FLAWS
The Pathfinder is the third in plot succession of James Fenimore Cooper's Leather-Stocking Tales, a series of five novels depicting life along early America's northeast frontier, each of which features adventures engaging Natty Bumppo, called Leather Stocking due to his long deerskin gaiters, and are full of exciting occurrences, the author's love of the native forests, and scenes ripe for performing artists' insights. We should expect to be grateful for this adaptation, with its more than adequate funding, an outstanding director and technician, Donald Shebib, and proven cast members including Graham Greene, Stephen Russell, Stacy Keach, and Laurie Holden, but the work's very opening scene, depicting the oftseen Flabby Bodied Non-Indians Stripped To The Waist, Daubed In War Paint, And Jiggling Their Soft Bellies Through The Woods, is a harbinger of the sloppy production values to come. The cardinal problem here involves wholesale changes in the plot of the novel, apparently scripted by committee, which includes unrequited love and its effects, altered drastically among the roles, with other sharp alterations bringing about losses of logic, suspense and dramatic continuity, shabby stunt direction and ragged editing also adding to the visual disharmony. Some of the players are quite effective in this beautifully costumed production, actually filmed on and about the Lake Ontario locations of the novel, especially Keach as a French general, Greene as Bumppo's Mohican mentor, Holden with a typically sincere performance, and excellent stage-trained Canadian Russell as the principal villain; however, the remainder of the casting is quaint at best, remarkably so in the case of the film's lead, Kevin Dillon, far too young and lacking in range for the fortyish Pathfinder, who gives one the perception throughout that showing up for this one was the most unpleasant thing he'd to do for a while.
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