THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, September 16, 1996 TAG: 9609140043 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E5 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: 66 lines
WHEN BIRDS of a feather fly together, you've got a soaring good picture possibility. If you like nature, you'll willingly let ``Fly Away Home'' make a goose out of you.
With the help of some breathtaking aerial photography by Caleb Deschanel, ``Fly Away Home'' tries valiantly to become something we haven't had lately - a family film that can actually be tolerated by adults. When the geese, trying to find their way to Virginia and parts south, spread their wings and follow their child-woman adopted mother, only the most cynical Scrooge wouldn't pull for them.
Anna Paquin, who was much more strident and adult-controlling in her Oscar-winning role in ``The Piano,'' plays a 13-year-old who has lost her mother and is forced to live with her estranged father, an eccentric inventor, played by Jeff Daniels. She's a loner until she finds an abandoned nest of goose eggs and lovingly adopts the emerging fuzzballs.
The goslings soon think she's their parent. Scenes of her trampling across the Canadian landscape with the little buggers waddling behind suggest a togetherness that is needed to support the plot that follows.
Because they have no feathered mom to teach them about migrating south for the winter, Anna, in a lightweight plane designed by Dad, leads them herself.
Carroll Ballard, director of the classic ``The Black Stallion,'' is on solid ground here as long as he lets nature have its way. It's only when the film goes searching for villains that it becomes a little strained, and ordinary. A nogoodnik wildlife official shows up with an urge to clip the wings of our heroes. He's a stock character.
It's stretching things a little, too, to have the geese fly between skyscrapers in Baltimore, or to have an adventure involving a military base.
We're more content with the basic story, and the pure visual imagery of fall foliage from above. This film might even save you this year's obligatory motor trip to the Skyline Drive in a few weeks. All the fall colors are here, and in wide screen.
``Fly Away Home'' lacks the visual splendor (probably because of budget) of ``The Black Stallion'' or the emotional force of ``Born Free'' but it is, nonetheless, a welcome addition to the sparse genre.
Of course, the real-life story is much more fascinating than this screen adaptation. That's the story of how eccentric inventor Bill Lishman actually flew from near Toronto to near Warrenton, Va., on the first man-led migratory trek in 1993. That's another story, though, and Hollywood rejected it in favor of a child star.
When Mark Isham's music soars and the geese climb, we're easily swept away into the feel-good visual imagery of it all. ILLUSTRATION: COLUMBIA PICTURES photo
Ann Paquin plays a girl who adopts a flock of newly hatched geese
and later leads them in migrating in ``Fly Away Home.''
``Fly Away Home''
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin, Dana Delany, Terry Kinney
Director: Carroll Ballard
Screenplay: Robert Rodat and Vince McKewin, based on the
autobiography by Bill Lishman
Music: Mark Isham
MPAA rating: PG (tasteful handling of a lost parent, nature
Mal's rating: three and one-half stars by CNB