Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Wild

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2006 at 12:00 AM

What's that odor? Smells a little like day-old lion dung to me. The Disney execs must be knee-deep in it, seeing as their latest CGI feature, The Wild is a horrible, half-baked carbon copy of Dreamworks' furry feel-good hit from last year, Madagascar. In The Wild, New York City zoo animals head off to the wilds of Africa on a rescue mission after one of their buddies, a young lion, is shipped off to the continent.

Though not perfect, Madagascar's spastic, smart-aleck animals, clever writing, bright animation and pop-culture riffs made for a madcap caper with a slapstick, Saturday-morning cartoon vibe. The Wild is like Madagascar, but take away all of the fun parts, and add an unnecessarily scary side reminiscent of something out of The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps director Steve "Spaz" Williams has a Peter Jackson complex, but at one point, the bad guys, wildebeests, line up in army formation awaiting instruction from their leader, chanting and stomping while fire and brimstone flare in the background. Great nightmare fodder for the kiddies, eh?

Disney moves are usually scarier than necessary, but they make up for it in cuteness, humor and lovability, maybe a song or two. Not so here. Nearly every character gets slapped, whacked, blown up, kicked, tackled or throttled. About the only thing really funny is Nigel, a wisecracking koala (the voice of Eddie Izzard), who retains some of his real-life, sarcastic persona. The rest of the cast — James Belushi, Janeane Garofalo, William Shatner and Kiefer Sutherland — could have, and perhaps did, phone it in.

Probably the most entertainment you'll glean from The Wild is trying to figure out how someone approved an entire subplot that involves the sport curling, beloved by Canadians, but likely the world's least-engaging spectator sport. That's pretty fitting, come to think of it. A movie this dull is about as entertaining as watching people sweep ice.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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