The Journey of Natty Gann (1985) starring Meredith Salenger, John Cusack, Ray Wise, Lainie Kazan, Scatman Crothers directed by Jeremy Kagan Movie Review

The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)   3/53/53/53/53/5

John Cusack and Meredith Salenger in The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

A Natty 80s Family Adventure

"The Journey of Natty Gann" must be one of Disney's more peculiar adventure movies with its story of a young girl travelling across country to try and find her dad. Now that may sound quite typical especially when we have the young girl making friends both human and of the animal kind because the Disney Studio knocked out quite a few of these adventure movies. But the thing about "The Journey of Natty Gann" is that it is not some kiddie movie, there is a dog fight, there is violence, there is even a man who tries it on with the young girl none of which is what you want to show your young child. And that in many ways is the trouble with "The Journey of Natty Gann" because the audience it is acceptable for may not be that interested in watching a young girl and her wolf travel across country no matter how well made it is.

Times are difficult for Natty (Meredith Salenger - Out of the Woods) and her father Sol Gann (Ray Wise) as jobs are short in Chicago. So when Sol is offered work in Washington State he takes it but he has to leave before saying goodbye to Natty who is going to stay in Chicago with their landlady Connie (Lainie Kazan). With her dad gone and things not going well Natty decides to run away to find her dad leading to an adventure as she makes friends whilst jumping the train and gets a companion in a wolf she helps escape from a dog fight.

Meredith Salenger as Natty Gann in The Journey of Natty Gann (1985)

So "The Journey of Natty Gann" is a movie of two sides and the first of which is what I would call typical Disney territory as we have young Natty running away from Chicago to try and find her dad in Washington State. As such Natty's journey has the familiar elements especially for a movie set during 1935, she jumps trains, walks through the woods and along train tracks, has various run ins with trouble and of course makes some friends. One of those friends is Harry who grows really fond of Natty and the other is a Wolf which Natty helps escape from a dog fight and becomes her travelling companion and protector. It is in concept all very traditional and to be honest the whole story plays out quite typically as through the ups and downs Natty makes it to where she hopes her dad still is.

But the other side to "The Journey of Natty Gann" is that it is grittier and darker than your normal Disney adventure movie. It takes you aback when you witness the dog fight and then again when we see Natty skin a rabbit in order to eat. And these grittier, sometimes darker scenes such as when a truck driver tries it on with Natty are surprising and make it a movie which in my opinion isn't for young children. But that leads to a problem because the slightly grittier level of this story means it is for older kids but would older kids be interested in an adventure movie about a girl travelling across country. It almost makes it a movie which doesn't have a target audience or at least not a big one.

And to be honest the lack of target audience is a shame because "The Journey of Natty Gann" is very well made with great locations, great energy and great pacing. And it also features some very good acting especially from Meredith Salenger who stars as Natty Gann. Salenger makes Natty believable taking us from the inexperienced young traveller to one who becomes wiser the more she has to travel, still being duped but being cleverer about it. She also works well with Jed the well trained wolf and there are some pleasant scenes between them as there is with John Cusack who plays Harry.

What this all boils down to is that "The Journey of Natty Gann" is a very well made Disney adventure movee with one problem, it is too dark and gritty for young children yet I am not sure older children, who it is more suitable for, will want to watch a young girl travelling across country.

Tags: Dog Movies