Loch Ness


Rating 3

Directed by John Henderson

Written by John Fusco

Starring Ted Danson (Dr Jonathan Dempsey), Joely Richardson (Laura McFetridge), Ian Holm (Water Baliff), Kirsty Graham (Isabel McFetridge), James Frain (Adrian Foote), Harris Yulin (Dr Mercer), Nick Brimble (Andy Maclean), Harry Jones (Wee Wullie), Keith Allen (Gordon Shoals), Philip O’Brien (Dr Abernathy) and John Savident (Dr Binns)

Dr Jonathan Dempsey was once a respected zoologist, but he destroyed his reputation when he became obsessed with a mission to track down the mythical Sasquatch (Bigfoot). He is now a laughing stock, teaching freshman college students in Los Angeles. He is sent to Scotland by his senior colleague Dr Mercer, ostensibly to conduct the necessary scientific research to disprove the existence of the Loch Ness monster, but in reality simply to be shot of him. He only consents to go because he is unable to keep up alimony payments to his former wife and is being pursued by her attorneys. Dempsey is met by his enthusiastic research assistant Adrian Foote, but it quickly becomes clear that he is not welcomed by the locals and that he is equally unhappy to be there. However, his cynical antagonism is slowly melted by Laura McFetridge, who owns the local pub and small hotel where he stays, and in particular by her young daughter Isabel, giving him back his belief in himself and his vocation.


I watched ‘Loch Ness’ a few times around the time of its initial release in 1996, probably once at the cinema and then subsequently on video and on television. Although, as I recall it, accurately or not, the film was met with unenthusiastic reviews by most critics, I enjoyed it. I was living in the north east of Scotland at that time and had visited Loch Ness and the Highlands more than once. Although I was born in England and to all intents and purposes am English, I do have some Scottish blood and there are occasions when it is very easy to conclude that Scotland is the greatest country on Earth, not least whenever I hear the stirring sound of the bagpipes or witness the majestic Highland landscape. ‘Loch Ness’ presents a rather chocolate-box version of Scotland, but no more so than, say, the classic 1945 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film ‘I Know Where I’m Going’, and it is an interpretation that is not entirely unrealistic. Watching it again recently, after a break of more than ten years, I was struck by how much I still enjoyed it.

This is a film about redemption. It doesn’t offer anything new and, indeed, succumbs to the frequently overly sentimental tilt of such films. However, there is a genuine sense of warm-heartedness about it and that is no bad thing. Although I was never a fan of ‘Cheers’ and no particular fan of the ‘Three Men and a Baby’ films, I do think Ted Danson is an easy actor to watch. There is also a strong supporting cast here, including several instantly recognisable faces, although eight-year-old Kirsty Graham, who winningly plays Isabel, does not seem to have continued to pursue an acting career.

Director John Henderson has worked primarily on television, most recently directing episodes of the ITV series ‘Ladies of Letters’ and, prior to ‘Loch Ness’, the acclaimed 1992 BBC adaptation of ‘The Borrowers’.

Review posted 16 August 2009


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