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RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER

From the April 15, 1988, Deseret News

RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER — Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, Brian Dennehy; rated PG (violence, profanity).

The actual screen credit says simply "Return to Snowy River," but Walt Disney Pictures is apparently afraid we'll mistake it for some other movie, so the poster art adds "Part II: The Legend Continues."

The film is, of course, the long-awaited sequel to "The Man From Snowy River," the Australian hit of some six years ago. And it picks up where the first picture left off, with title character Jim Craig (played again by Tom Burlinson) coming back to the lowland after "getting a start" with some 100 horses he's managed to round up.

He has come back to win the hand of strong-willed Jessica (Sigrid Thornton again) only to find she is – against her strong will – betrothed to riding champion Alistair Patton (Nicholas Eadie), whose father is a wealthy horse trader. It seems Jessica's father sees the match as a way of hurrying along his bank loan, since Alistair's father also has influence in financial circles.

Besides, Jessica's father is as opposed to Craig as ever. Dad this time is being played by Brian Dennehy instead of Kirk Douglas. (The irascible, peg-legged Spur, also played by Douglas in the first film, is now deceased; no mention is made of Jack Thompson's character Clancy.)

The story is even more simplistic here than it was in the first film, with Craig trying to win Jessica, meanwhile pulling together the high-country folk to provide horses for the Army in competition with the wealthy lowland breeders.

The main problems in "Return to Snowy River" are Dennehy's character being much too soft – his participation in a contrived happy ending is a very wrong move – and the bad guys being a bit too bad, Eadie's Patton in particular. This film would have been a lot more interesting had the villains been multi-dimensional.

But those blemishes are more than compensated for by the stupendous horsemanship (with some eye-popping stunts), the action scenes (with Craig using a whip better than anyone this side of Indiana Jones) and the gorgeous, stunningly photographed scenery.

Burlinson and Thornton are in fine form, if a bit stiffer than the last go-around, another indication that the script could have used a harder edge.

As it is, the film looks a bit hackneyed and hokey around the edges but is still fun in an old-fashioned western way, with more than enough action, adventure, romance and rough-and-tumble horseplay to please fans of the first film.

"Return to Snowy River" is rated PG for violence and a couple of profanities.