The Terry Fox Story (1983)

TV Movie   |    |  Biography, Drama, Sport

The Terry Fox Story (1983) Poster

The true story about the Canadian cancer amputee hero who decided to run across Canada on only one leg to raise money for cancer research.


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13 October 2003 | secragt
| Sincere But Finally A Drag
Things start promisingly. Terry Fox is presented as a driven if surly adolescent in a similarly combative family. The contentious relationship between Terry and his parents is handled head on and smartly; we watch with interest as Terry's teen angst, rebellion and boundary challenges brush up against his parents' attempt to rein in his self-pity and grandiose schemes. Unfortunately, this strong conflict and interesting family dynamic is largely jettisoned once Terry hits the road. His parents do reappear later, but only briefly and with no payoff.

Another big disappointment is the waste of Robert Duvall, who is mostly at sea in his curiously small role as the marketing man who arrives in the third act to properly expose (and motivate) Terry's efforts to a growing throng of fans. Coming so close as it does to Duvall's Oscar winning performance in Tender Mercies, this choice is particularly head--scratching for the uber-talented Duvall, who would seem likely to have had more control over his roles (maybe it was filmed before?)

The movie ends awkwardly as Terry Fox is forced to drop out of his cross-country run for health reasons. The denouement is a clunky mix of fare-thee-well voice-over and a wistful Terry Fox slowly jogging around a track shortly before his death. This is what we've been building towards? It's hard to say; the movie condenses so much (including the clipped arrival of brother Chris Makepeace, who barely gets a line in the whole movie, though he's in many scenes) and is edited so poorly at the end, we're not sure whether whole sections were left on the cutting room floor.

It's probably not PC to criticize the candid biopic of a controversial but inspirational amputee who raised millions for Cancer research whilst running across Canada, but the sad truth is that this movie is mostly unpleasant and entirely uninspiring. Worse, THE TERRY FOX STORY is not even particularly moving where it wants to be. There is a sense that the story is building to something, but even that conceit is shot down by the jarringly abrupt and strangely abbreviated anti-climactic finale.

Whatever the story problems, the central problem is Terry. He is incredibly persevering, yes. But he's also a moody SOB who abuses various undeserving targets, including his parents, brother, sister, run helpers and girlfriend (a pre TNG Rosalind Chao who is young and cute).The movie is so careful to document his "complex" combative nature that it's never really possible to sympathize with him. Fox's constant whining and pettiness may be accurate, but it makes his Canadian trek an uninspiring drag. Also, he never grows from the experience, making us wonder where he's been the whole time. Viewers are better off with a big bag of chips, a comfy LAZY BOY and some old Wide World of Sports reruns than this earnestly conveyed but largely wrong-headed muddle. 4.5/10.

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