Saturday, April 15, 2006

Movie Review: The Wild

My suggestion: Avoid it. Skip it. Forget it ever existed.

These days, technology has reached a point where, in a well written movie, the animation should almost go unnoticed as you watch, much like a good score does. A good score simply adds to the power and emotion that the movie contains. Animation can serve the same role. If you watch a truly well-made animated movie, you almost forget it's animated. Finding Nemo is a great example of this.

The Wild is not.

Unfortunately, the ONLY redeeming feature of The wild was its animation. The animation was incredible. Whereas Madagascar (my kids' favorite movie) was amazingly animated with the characters intentionally looking cartoony, The Wild's animators made the animals look REAL. Or, at least, like real stuffed animals. The scenery was also fanastic. One striking scene involved the cast riding in the back of a garbage truck down 42nd street. The glitz and glamour of Manhattan was incredibly realistic, right down to the giant, flashy ads on 42nd (including a well placed TiVo ad!). In that scene, however, I noticed there were no people on the street. so much for realism.

My wife, daughters and I walked out of the movie at least twenty minutes before it ended, totally disgusted with having spent $25 on tickets to see it and expecting nightmares from the kids later tonight. This movie has a "G" rating. As parents of children ages 5 and 2, we need to be able to trust that "G" means "G", not that it means "no sex or blood, but plenty of scary scenes that will make your child scream that she wants to go home and throughout the after noon wish she was never born". The Wild started off with the father lion telling a story to his son about how he fought of a 14-foot (actually, he changed it to 14-thousand-foot) tall wildebeest with fire in his eyes, four sharp horns, and hooves that could destroy mountains, simply by roaring as only lions can. I felt extremely uncomfortable throughout the opening scene, and thanked the lord when it ended with a down-to-earth attempt by the son to roar like daddy. Picture the "Be Prepared" scene in Lion King where Scar sings with the hyenas in a cave, but even more scary and no music. Later in the movie, the mean, scary wildebeests return in scenes that were not only dark and fearsome, but also long, boring, unimaginative, humorless and tiring.

The basic story line is nothing original. Based in the fictional NY Zoo (and not nearly as creatively as Madagacar did it), The son can't roar like a real lion ("he's eleven, but roars at a nine-year-old level"). His dad (played weakly by Keifer Sutherland...he's much better when he's pointing a gun at someone) is visibly disappointed, to the point where the son wants to go back to the wild, where his dad supposedly grew up, and learn to be a big meany like him. In a familiar story line, the son accidentally gets stuck on a boat headed for who-knows-where, and Dad has to gather his group of trusty friends to save him. The son was actually on a boat headed to rescue animals from the African Jungle where the threat of a volcano eruption was eminent, but the whole volcano thing was barely even an issue in the movie (perhaps the ending was about the eruption, but again we left early). The dad and friends hijack a tugboat and follow the giant sea-going barge across the Atlantic, without so much as filling up the gas tank.

Dad's posse included a forgettable giraffe, a best-friend-and-advisor squirrel that was in love with the giraffe, a snake, and a koala named Nigel with an English accent. Sorry, but since when are koalas from London?

The humor fell completely flat in this movie. For example, when the zoo closed, all the animals got together for a big event, which was a curling competition using turtles for pucks. Problem is, it just wasn't funny. There was also a potentially great scene where the garbage truck starts to compress its cargo much like the famous trash compactor scene of Star Wars. In homage to Star Wars, the lion attempts to use the snake to brace the walls. But again, weak. The only other bit with potential was when, as the gang searches the jungle for the son, trees and rocks seem to guide their way by lighting up with neon arrows and through mysterious jungle whispering. It was a scene that (I think) was a parody of LOST, but again, weak.

Save your money.

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