Open Season (2006) / Animation-Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG for crude humor, some violence, and brief language
Running Time: 99 min.

Cast (voice): Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Favreau, Gary Sinise, Jane Krakowski, Debra Messing, Billy Connolly, Patrick Warburton
Director: Roger Allers, Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi
Screenplay: Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman
Review published October 3, 2006

First came Madagascar.  Then came The Wild.  Now we have yet another 3D-animated film about animals in captivity trying to fend for themselves in what would normally have been their natural habitat.  While it isn't surprising that another family film would be very similar to the formula of those that came before, as nearly all of them are wholly unoriginal, what does surprise me is that I find Open Season to be a better film than the aforementioned kid flicks it (no pun intended) bears resemblance to.

Martin Lawrence (Big Momma's House 2, Rebound) voices the character of the grizzly bear named Boog, an animal that has been domesticated by a caring park ranger named Beth (Messing, The Wedding Date).  He makes a new friend, albeit begrudgingly, in Elliot (Kutcher, A Lot Like Love), a high-spirited deer trying to escape the firing end of a shotgun held by tenacious game hunter named Shaw (Sinise, The Forgotten).  Beth realizes that she shouldn't keep Boog forever in her home, so she releases him deep into the woods, inadvertently bringing Elliot along with him.  Together, the duo must find a way to fend for themselves among the inhospitable environs of the wild, while also trying to make it back home before they become victims of the open hunting season.

One might call my feelings toward Open Season a result of very low expectations coming in, but I do find it modestly diverting, albeit with quite a bit of overhead.  As those of you who've read my reviews before will know, I'm no fan of Martin Lawrence, and the team-up with Ashton Kutcher threatened to make this a crass and joyless affair for nearly any movie critic.  Surprisingly, Lawrence does a fine job in giving the character of Boog personality, affecting likeability and sympathy to a creature that could have come off as mean-spirited and crude.  Kutcher doesn't fare as well, although it may not be completely his fault, as the annoying, hyperactive sidekick role has become a staple of nearly all animated adventures in recent years.  The rest of the cast perform fine, even though none of them are particularly recognizable in their characters (not that they need to be), with the exception of Billy Connolly (Garfield 2, A Series of Unfortunate Events) as a rambunctious squirrel named McSquizzy.

The CG work is quite good, although not enough to truly stand out, and the soundtrack does kick in the requisite number of hits to garner some interest.  One shouldn't expect anything more of the kinds of things they've seen before, however, in this efficient but formulaic release.  I do think kids will enjoy this, and parents will probably be more engaged with the film than some of the other recent releases of a similar ilk in the past year, but this is not a knockout by any means, not even close.  In this Open Season, no one will be blown away.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo