Open Season
directed by Roger Allers & Jill Culton
(Sony, 2006)

Plenty of laughs and some really impressive animation make Open Season a film just about anyone, young or old, will enjoy watching. The only problem is the fact that it really has nothing to make it stand out from the crowd.

Boog and Elliot are great characters, but they just remind me a little too much of Shrek and Donkey, and Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher are pale imitations of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy. I actually had a little trouble with the voices. Sometimes Boog sounded like Lawrence, and sometimes he didn't; on the other hand, Elliot never sounded very much like Kutcher to me (which is actually a good thing). The two make for a good team, but the chemistry between them doesn't always seem to come naturally.

The supporting cast of voice actors is pretty impressive, though. It's always a kick to hear Georgia Engel's unique voice, but Billy Connolly absolutely steals the whole show time and time again as the voice of McSquizzy, the leader of the squirrels (who is always itching for a fight).

Boog is a grizzly bear living the life of an ursine Riley, having been raised by Park Ranger Beth (Debra Messing). Then a deer named Elliot, desperate to escape the clutches of an evil hunter (Gary Sinise) shows up, and he has a rather destabilizing effect on Boog's life. Suddenly, Boog finds himself rooted out of his idyllic, pampered existence and left in the forest to survive on his own. It doesn't go well, as he and Elliot find themselves chastised and laughed at by all manner of woodland creatures (especially McSquizzy and the squirrels). Then things take an even more dramatic turn for the worst, as hunting season officially opens. Eventually, Boog faces the most obvious of moral choices: return home on his own to try and reclaim his old life of leisure or turn around and help the other animals band together and fight the hunters at their own game.

Don't expect any real surprises with the story, as it plays out pretty much according to formula. That's okay; after all, the old formula still works pretty effectively. You won't bust a gut laughing, but you will laugh. The film also imparts good lessons on friendship and teamwork, which is another mark in its favor. I just hope the film helps to inspire at least a few young people not to become hunters when they grow up.

review by
Daniel Jolley

8 March 2008

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