|Open Season (2006)
Starring: voices of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Gary Sinise, Patrick Warburton, Billy Connolly, Jon Favreau, Jane Krakowski
Director: Roger Allers, Jill Culton
This is going to be the most half-assed review of “Open Season” you’ll find on the web…unless you find the reviews of my other movie critic friends who, like me, left the screening an hour after the initial run time had passed and there were no signs that the movie would begin anytime soon. Then, right as we were about to enter a nearby bar, the studio rep tracked us down and told us they had started the movie. So we grabbed our 3-D glasses (and for the record, this is not your father’s 3-D, and would recommend a 3-D viewing of this movie if it’s convenient) and snuck into the theater while, duh, Talking Heads’ “Wild Wild Life” was blaring. Ooh, how edgy. Still, monster props to Jennifer the rep for making the effort to find us, even if it meant that we had to put off drinking for at least an hour and a half.
So from what I saw, the gist of the movie is this: Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence) is a grizzly bear that was rescued by forest ranger Beth (Debra Messing), raised in captivity as her pet, and now performs at a tourist attraction, thoroughly enjoying his humanized existence. After a show, he notices a mangled elk named Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) tied to the hood of a car belonging to local hunter goon Shaw (Gary Sinise), and Boog helps Elliot escape. Elliot then tracks Boog to his home, only to lure Boog into trouble by introducing him to the wondrous world of fast food (hello, “Over the Hedge”) which leads to a series of unfortunate events that lands them both in the deep, dark forest, a place neither of them is equipped to survive (hello, “Madagascar”). Soon after they arrive in the woods, there’s a poop scene. Hello, “Shrek.”
Get the picture here? There is almost nothing original about “Open Season,” and that would have been true even if they had beaten “The Wild,” “Over the Hedge” and “Barnyard: The Original Party Animals” to the multiplexes in the last five months (not that “Barnyard” cornered the market on anything besides stupid, mind you). It brings to mind the studio battles from the ‘90s over who could bring their project to the big screen first – “Dante’s Peak” vs. “Volcano,” “Deep Impact” vs. “Armageddon,” “Independence Day” vs. “Mars Attacks” – and what they all forgot was that it doesn’t matter who gets there first if your story can’t stand on its own.
And to the filmmakers’ credit, while what they put together isn’t terribly original, it is visually stunning. The movie is filled with a slew of breathtaking 360-degree shots that had to have been death to create in 2-D, never mind the superb 3-D that we experienced. But it was apparent early on that the filmmakers were going for style over substance. The second that one of the characters shat onscreen, they gave up the Substance ghost from then on. I did like the bunnies, though that may be a lingering effect from “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” The casting of Billy Connolly as McSquizzy, the savage leader of the squirrel army, was inspired, but they even dumbed him down later on by making him quote a line from a man who’s currently the most reviled actor in Hollywood. If you don’t know who that actor is, I won’t spoil it for you, though you may want to check out “Law & Order” on November 3, in order to get their ripped-from-today’s-headlines version of the events.
As I was explaining the plot of “Open Season” to my wife Buffybot, and got to the part about how Boog’s life fell apart after saving Elliot’s life, she sarcastically said, “So the moral of the story is that helping other people is wrong?” And I actually had to sit there for about ten seconds to figure out what moral the movie really had, and came up with blanks, outside of the whole anti-hunting angle they were clearly going for in the first place. Despite their best intentions, “Open Season” might be the most pro-Republican movie you will see this year. Oh, the irony.
The single-disc release of “Open Season” is positively overflowing with special features, including a director audio commentary, deleted scenes, and several production featurettes covering everything from voice recording to the actual making-of the film. Also featured is a music video, art gallery, “Wheel of Fortune: Forest Edition” interactive game, and a sneak peak at the new animated film, “Surf’s Up.”