2006 - G - 85 Mins.
|Director: Steve 'Spaz' Williams
|Producer: Jim Burton, Clint Goldman
|Written By: Ed Decter, Mark Gibson, Philip Halprin, John J. Strauss
|Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, James Belushi, Eddie Izzard, Janeane Garofalo, William Shatner, Richard Kind, Greg Cipes
|Review by: Joe Rickey
|Official Site: disney.go.com/disneypictures/thewild/
The recipe for Disney's latest CGI effort comes by way of a myriad of influences ('Ice Age', 'The Lion King', 'Finding Nemo', , etc.). All of them with the possible exception of last summer's equally as dull 'Madagascar', are far better films.
Ryan (Greg Cipes) is a young and naive lion who is tired of listening to every word his father (Kiefer Sutherland) tells him. He is especially tired and more than a little jealous of the stories his father tells him of his days in the African wilderness. Living in Central Park Zoo, Ryan fears he may never venture into the Wild. So when the opportunity arises, he hides in a cargo container on its way to the wild.
Now it's up to beleaguered father and friends (an anaconda, a squirrel, a giraffe, and a koala) to rescue him. They arrive in Africa just as Ryan is being harassed by a wildebeest (William Shatner) and his clan of misfits. In order to save him they must tussle with their new enemies and avoid a volcano that is about to erupt.
One problem with 'The Wild' is its cliched and otherwise lazy screenplay (courtesy of four screenwriters). One would like to think that ethnic stereotypes would have gone the way of the pet rock but they are apparently alive and well, even in films aimed at impressionable young people. Canada, New York, Indians, Arabs, Germans, they're all here in their terribly tired glory.
The film also relies too much on humor related to bodily fluids. This almost feels like an Adam Sandler film gone animated with its abundance of crotch shots and other variations of slapsticky humor. The characters suffer as they are all types moreso than fleshed-out personalities. At least with films like 'Shrek' and 'Finding Nemo' we got to know about the characters beyond superficiality. Here, it almost seems like the filmmakers expect you to have seen its numerous inspirations as a bizarre method of narrative shorthand. Even with the assumption that these short cuts work, the film bogs down as it nears its increasingly inevitable conclusion, seemingly having run out of ideas once the characters meet the wildebeasts.
The feeling of been there, done that permeates the entire enterprise. Aside from a plot that lacks anything resembling a fresh idea, like other DreamWorks animation efforts, the film contains what seem like corporate mandated pop culture references and product placement (The Toys R' Us one feels like an attempt to get a marketing tie-in which failed because Toys R' Us didn't find the film worthy enough. Ouch.).
The voice acting performances are decent if uninspired like the film itself. One keeps expecting Kiefer Sutherland's character to yell "Drop your weapon!" which would actually offer an improvement over his perfunctory reading. Janeane Garofalo does as much as she can to bring personality to her generically smart-alecky giraffe. Richard Kind is fun as the dim bulb anaconda and Jim Belushi is sometimes a hoot as the squirrel.
The film's strengths are on the technical side of things. The animation is simply lovely. Stylistically, it pushes the envelope of computer animated realism beyond the levels we've seen in 'Madagascar', pretty much every DreamWorks film, and most Pixar productions for that matter. The characters all have an odd sheen to them but it works for the film, especially during an encounter with inhabitants of the New York City sewer system. The film also features musical song and dance numbers that work with the elaborate productions put on by the evil wildebeasts. Despite these virtues, the film doesn't offer anything else to recommend it.
In summation, don't bother venturing into 'The Wild' because all you'll find is a by-the-numbers exercise with nary an ounce of the inspiration found in the better films this genre has to offer.