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The Last Chance Detective: Legend of the Desert Bigfoot (1995) November 7th, 2020

The Last Chance Detective: Legend of the Desert Bigfoot is another VHS I unearthed from Goodwill. Produced by Focus on the Family, the Last Chance Detective series follows protagonist Mike Fowler and friends’ adventures in the Arizona desert. This short made for TV movie is the second in the series and focuses on the mystery of a primate that’s terrorizing Ambrosia the small desert town where the series takes place.

I picked this up because the title was too bizarre to pass up for 50¢. While I expected a significant amount of 90s PBS production quality and Christian moralizing from The Last Chance Detective: Legend of the Desert Bigfoot I didn’t anticipate how brutal the plot would become. I cannot imagine anyone reading this actually needing a spoiler warning but I’ll issue a compulsory one anyway, spoilers ahead!

Bottom line, it’s not actually a Bigfoot. Huge disappointment for me. What’s actually happened is these kid detectives inadvertently exposed an exotic animal trafficking ring that transports gorillas cross country. I don’t remember if the film explicitly says who they’re selling the gorilla to or what’s going to happen to it once it reaches the buyer but my imagination stops me from imagining anything more sinister than black market exotic pet ownership or using the animal’s parts for its magical medicinal properties like rhino horn or tiger blood, but even that seems pretty extreme for a Christian children’s movie.

It gets pretty violent too, the bad guy assaults a police officer and tries to kill Mike in an abandoned gravel mill. I know violence and action aren’t foreign to Christian parallels but something like David and Goliath gets a pass because it’s ancient. I’d have a different take on David’s heroism if he shot Goliath with a tranquilizer dart.

The moralizing comes from a completely separate incident. See, one of the first victims of the Bigfoot attacks is an old man who lives with his dog on a ranch. After his home was ransacked by the Bigfoot Mike and his crew show up and decide that the man is too old and feeble to properly care for his dog so they take the dog away with them despite the man’s protest. After the whole rest of the adventure with the gorilla and the animal trafficking Mike decides he shouldn’t have stolen the dog in the first place and returns to give it back… only for the old man to concede that he IS too old to care for the dog and gifts it to Mike. So the lesson is… ‘don’t steal even if you believe it’s righteous… unless the person you’re stealing from thinks it’s a good idea.’ Wouldn’t that not make it stealing? How can Mike be expected to learn a lesson when right at the moment he’s about to cross the threshold he ripped back by a world that assures him he can’t make any mistakes and rewards him for bad behavior? I kind of want them to make a modern version a la Fuller House where the Last Chance Detective is a well known criminal who’s enabled by an inept Christian police department. That could be fun.

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