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Overall Rating
2.17

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 8.51%
Average: 14.89%
Pretty Bad61.7%
Total Crap: 14.89%

6 reviews, 11 user ratings


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Wild, The
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by Jay Seaver

"This much insanity should be more fun."
2 stars

The last time Disney feature animation was in such doldrums, there was no DreamWorks and no Blue Sky, so people could be forgiven for assuming that there was just no interest in animation as a medium. Now, though, when we see something as disappointing as "The Wild", it's after sitting through trailers for "Over the Hedge" and "Happy Feet", which makes it seem like everyone but Disney knows what they're doing. Even if this movie is an acquisition rather than something produced in-house, Disney's darn lucky to have John Lasseter around to play the same role Clements and Musker played in the late eighties/early nineties, because this just won't do.

There was a very similar movie last year by the name of "Madagascar"; here, the lion that serves as the New York Zoo's star attraction is Samson (voice of Keifer Sutherland). It's his son Ryan (voice of Greg Clipes) who wants to see the wild, and he winds up on a boat back to Africa, Samson and friends - streetwise squirrel Benny (voice of James Belushi), London-raised koala Nigel (voice of Eddie Izzard), dopey snake Larry (voice of Richard Kind), and the giraffe Benny has a biologically challenging crush on, Bridget (voice of Janeane Garofalo) - must rescue him. A boat is hijacked and runs aground, and the city animals find themselves confronted by a pack of crazy jungle beasts - here, wildebeests led by Kazar (voice of William Shatner), convinced that if he turns carnivore by eating a lion, he'll be king of the jungle.

This should be more... Well, not necessarily charming, but entertaining than it is. The four listed writers have some really twisted ideas, from the zoo animals' favorite sport being curling played with live turtles.to the glorious insanity or Kazar's logic. Cartoons featuring animal characters that haven't been completely anthropomorphized have to at least pay some lip service to the idea that these species would normally be interacting as predator and prey rather than as peers, but this is the first time I can remember it playing out with a carnivore cult arising among normally herbivorous animals, complete with the planned ritual sacrifice devouring of a cute talking lion cub. I am willing to be money that if I described the plot without mentioning that the characters were talking animals - Keifer Sutherland chases his runaway son from New York to Africa and has to save him from being eaten by an insane cult leader - very few people would guess that this was a G-rated family film.

So why is it ultimately disappointing? Well, the filmmakers are pretty indiscriminate with the zaniness, and never give it much chance to breathe. A sequence with a pair of chameleons setting up the climax is almost exhausting to try and follow, in part because the story with the wildebeests doesn't show up until halfway through the picture, so we're suddenly thrown a whole bunch of plot - and weird plot at that - and new character dynamics in rapid succession when we're just getting comfortable with what's going on with the zoo animals. We need to get Samson in a situation where he admits a secret to Ryan and then overcomes it, but this has got to be the most complicated, overdone way to go about it. By the end, we've had so much thrown at us that when Benny and Bridget get a last exchange, the impression is not so much "aaaawwwww", but "wait, they were about that?" The voice work is also slanted toward giving every minor character a wacky voice or accent (why are the pigeons apparently Pakistani? What's with the Hyrax that Samson doesn't eat? Why the German accents for the dung beetles?), which really just becomes too much.

The thing is, they really don't have to work that hard. The scenes between Samson and Ryan are pretty great. Keifer Sutherland has not had much opportunity lately (ever?) to play a laid-back, happy guy, and he's surprisingly good at being warm - this lion loves his cub, and it adds a little more force to when he falls into the more familiar matter-of-life-and-death delivery. Maybe even better casting is Kevin Michael Richardson as the voice of Samson's father in a flashback; he's frighteningly imperious in his one scene - the type that just tells you all you need to know about their relationship and illuminates Samson's and Ryan's. It's a good core, better than the stuff that covers it up.

The rest of the cast is split between unknowns and quality B-listers. I wasn't terribly keen on Belushi or Izzard, but Janeane Garofalo is always welcome. William Shatner does nuts as good as anybody, but here he's kind of generic nuts, as opposed to Shatner nuts. Still, he's got Patrick Warburton as a henchman, and you can't go very far wrong with Warburton being dry and kind of slow-witted. I'm guessing that having Don Cherry emceeing the curling match is going to be much funnier for Canadians than us folks south of the border.

Stuff like that is what makes me suspect Disney acquired this picture rather than developed it in-house. The technical quality is pretty nice, not far off what the major studios have been doing in-house. The opening sequence does some nifty things playing with animation styles - it gets more cartoony as the story Samson's telling Ryan gets more outrageous, ending with an exaggerated video-game style monster wildebeest. Director Steve "Spaz" Williams does a decent job of keeping the characters expressive while keeping them on four legs.

It's frustrating. You throw this much craziness at a movie, it should come up with something funnier than this. I mean, geez, a William Shatner wildebeest planning to eat a lion - why the heck isn't that appealing to my sick sense of humor?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14309&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/19/06 15:07:52
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User Comments

3/18/16 Charles Tatum Unremarkable, quickly forgotten 2 stars
1/08/09 Shaun Wallner This movie stinks!! 2 stars
6/26/08 Mario The Wild is diet Madagascar 2 stars
6/21/08 PAUL SHORTT FUNNY, COMPASSIONATE, ENGAGING FILM THAT PROMPTS BOTH LAUGHS AND A LUMP IN THE THROAT 4 stars
5/20/06 B. Sutter My daughter's 1st movie- cult ritual sacrifice - thanks disney 1 stars
5/14/06 Koitus Ugh... LIttle humor, "Coldplay" soundtrack, booger jokes... Need I say more?!? 2 stars
5/07/06 Charlene Javier Quite enjoyable... 4 stars
4/28/06 Jen Wilson not bad... cute for its target audience- CHILDREN! 4 stars
4/20/06 bill lame story, beautiful visuals -- worth a look 3 stars
4/18/06 albert good....but somethiing wrong with this animation. 4 stars
4/14/06 me the commericals look stupid. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  14-Apr-2006 (G)
  DVD: 12-Sep-2006

UK
  26-May-2006

Australia
  28-Sep-2006



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