Although watered down from the novel that is its source (not to mention fortified with an extra teaspoon or two of sugar), Spencer's Mountain is an entertaining "big brood" family film that offers a number of pleasures to make up for its failings. It's a toss-up as to whether the biggest assets are its two stars or its gorgeous, breathtaking Grand Teton scenery. There's an awful lot of both of these assets, and if the scenery may finally get the edge, it's only because it doesn't have to utter some of the overly-folksy dialogue that Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara sometimes are asked to. It's a shame that too much of the screenplay has been "Hollywood-ized," as it reduces the characters from the living and breathing people of the novel to the cardboard characters that often crop up when Hollywood tries to present poor-but-decent country folk that are not hicks. The actors portraying the younger generation have a particularly hard time of it, especially Mimsy Farmer. Fortunately, Fonda and O'Hara are old hands at this game, and their work transcends the screenplay, as does the wonderfully understated work of Donald Crisp. Spencer's Mountain is by no means a bad film, and many viewers will find it touching and warm; but for others, it will seem a trifle too manipulative.
by Craig Butler review