Ultra-Canuck docu profiles one seriously deranged individual, an Ontario scrap-metal merchant and inventor of a string of high-tech suits, all designed to help him come face-to-face with his obsession, grizzly bears.

Ultra-Canuck docu profiles one seriously deranged individual, an Ontario scrap-metal merchant and inventor of a string of high-tech suits, all designed to help him come face-to-face with his obsession, grizzly bears.

As pic’s subject, Troy Hurtubise, tells the camera, his thing for the big, bad critters started years ago on a mountain camping trip: A grizzly crossed his path, leaving him nowhere to run, but miraculously, the bear looked at him, snorted derisively and went on its way, leaving him well shaken and, for some reason, anxious to repeat the experience. Knowing his luck probably wouldn’t last another round, Hurtubise subsequently devoted all his spare time, and considerable financing (raised “for scientific research,” he explains), to building an armored outfit capable of protecting him from ursine wrath.

Pic turns quite humorous, and also a bit scary, as we see him via earlier videotapes trying out various designs, mainly by being knocked over by swinging logs and fast-moving trucks. Even better, he tests out the current model, or Mark VI, by having himself beat up by liquored-up bikers at the local bar. By this point, some viewers may suspect that they’re being set up for “mockumentary” hijinx, but Hurtubise’s quest seems absolutely sincere to the point where he’s not always in on documaker Peter Lynch’s jokes. Shots of the suit delivered to remote spots by helicopter, for example, look like vintage Fellini. And the bear-hunter’s dialect a distinctly tight-lipped brand of “hoser” speak will be familiar to “SCTV” fans.

Hurtubise frequently mentions “the wife,” although this creature is scarcer than the grizzlies in the story. His other family members do show up, however, with a younger, chain-smoking brother in apparently ambivalent thrall to Troy’s strange mission. That mission comes to a head in the Alberta Rockies, when all the members of “Project Grizzly” a motley band of survivalists and hangers-on playing at military-type maneuvers finally get close to a real live specimen. Unfortunately, the famous suit is 10 miles away from the site and auds are left hanging as to how far the buckskin-wearing adventurer will go in the future.

Dramatically, the non-encounter is a big disappointment, but by then it’s clear that helmer Lynch (who previously waxed anthropological about high-rise Toronto ‘burbs in his comic short “Arrowhead”) sees his subject as a kind of backwoods Captain Ahab, essentially using his obsession to keep things interesting, and under control. This view is supported by mock-heroic cowboy-twang music recalling Ennio Morricone’s bouncier ditties for Sergio Leone.

Docu lensing is as good as can be expected under absurdly difficult conditions. Helmer makes only one mistake, right up front, by tossing in some blurry nature footage of bears fighting. Other than that, pic reps smooth watching for discerning fest and tube watchers.

Project Grizzly

Canadian

Production

A National Film Board of Canada (Toronto) production. Produced by Michael Allder. Executive producers, Louise Lore, Gerry Flahive. Directed by Peter Lynch.

Crew

Camera, Tony Wannamaker; editor, Caroline Christie; music, Anne Bourne, Ken Myhr; sound, Alison Clark, Robert Fletcher; research, Elizabeth Wilton; associate producer, Emmet Sheil. Reviewed on videocassette, Vancouver, Sept. 2, 1996. (In Toronto, Vancouver film festivals.) Running time: 72 MIN.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more