'Wampler's Ascent' Review: A Heartfelt Look

This sappy but effective doc has a whopper of an inspirational subject.

“Wampler’s Ascent” has a whopper of an inspirational subject in Steve Wampler, a 42-year-old father of two with cerebral palsy who spent six days climbing Yosemite National Park’s daunting El Capitan in 2010. It also has Wampler’s own wife, Elizabeth, serving as tyro helmer. Resolutely sappy and sometimes amateurish, the briskly paced doc remains heartfelt and direct about the same admirable mission Wampler had in making the climb: to raise money and awareness for his own Wampler Foundation, a wilderness camp for physically disabled kids.

With cameras capturing every grueling moment, “Ascent” conveys  the brutal hardships Wampler faced (exhaustion, frustration, even dehydration are all palpable) as well as the remarkable determination the novice climber displayed in scaling a monolith twice the size of the Empire State Building. Experienced guides Tommy Thompson and David Lane accompany him on the trek, providing not only safety checks, but also no-nonsense perspective on Wampler’s frequently tenuous condition. Although hardly subtle, the uplift is credibly grounded in Wampler’s compassionate and optimistic worldview. Tech credits vary from the highs of d.p. Corey Rich’s supple HD lensing of majestic scenery to the lows of a treacly score curiously provided by “Friday the 13th” composer Harry Manfredini.

Film Review: 'Wampler's Ascent'

Reviewed on DVD, West Hollywood, Aug. 22, 2013. Running time: 75 MIN.

Production

(Documentary) A Hollywood Locations release and presentation in association with 11 Amps. Produced by Stephen J. Wampler.

Crew

Directed by Elizabeth Wampler. Camera (color, HD), Corey Rich; editor, Jacques Spitzer; music, Harry Manfredini.

With

Stephen Wampler, Elizabeth Wampler, Tommy Thompson, David Lane.

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