MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5)
Kiefer Sutherland as SAMSON
James Belushi as BENNY
Eddie Izzard as NIGEL
Janeane Garofalo as BRIDGET
William Shatner as KAZAR
Richard Kind as LARRY
Greg Cipes as RYAN
Directed by: Steve “Spaz” Williams
BY KEVIN CARR
Okay, let’s get some things out of the way with this review. Yes, “The Wild” is a substandard computer generated film. With excellent work from Pixar and PDI DreamWorks (and a couple nice shots by FOX) to set the standard, “The Wild” just comes up short.
This comes in two forms – the script and the animation. Computer graphics have come a long way since “Toy Story,” and even the weakest of the CGI features offers a decent amount of computer graphics. The animation of “The Wild” is pretty decent, considering. It’s not up to a Pixar level, but then again, no one is. Still, it breaks down at some points and looks overly stylized.
The story is really where this movie suffers. Probably its biggest problem is that the plot is an embarrassingly cheap rip-off of “Madagascar.” This, of course, is nothing new in computer animation. Back in the 90s, DreamWorks stole Pixar’s idea of a life from a bug’s perspective and sneaked “Antz” into theaters before “A Bug’s Life” came out. Disney gets trumped once again since DreamWorks’ “Madagascar” predated “The Wild” by almost an entire year.
“The Wild” tells the story of a lion cub named Ryan that lives in the zoo with his father, Samson, who always tells exciting stories of how he ruled the jungle. Ryan wants his chance in this zone, so he climbs into cargo that is shipped back to the wild. Samson convinces a group of animals in the zoo to escape with him to go find his son. The animals move through New York and eventually hitch a ride on a cargo ship to Africa, where the cub has been seized by psychotic wildebeests trying to get to the top of the food chain.
To be fair, there is some evidence to suggest that “The Wild” was in production first and “Madagascar” was the one ripping it off. Whatever the case, you can’t escape the fact that “Madagascar” was a better movie. Still, once you get past the “Madagascar” similarities, it’s impossible to shake other ones, namely other Disney releases like “The Lion King” and “Finding Nemo.”
The voice cast is only so-so, featuring Kiefer Sutherland as Samson, Richard Kind as Larry the snake, Jim Belushi as a squirrel and Janeane Garofalo as a giraffe. In fact, the only stand-out performance is Eddie Izzard as a koala bear who manages to steal every scene he’s in.
When “The Wild” was released in theaters, it was not screened for critics (never a good sign), and it tanked at the box office. The release was early enough that it’s failure couldn’t be blamed on an overabundance of CGI films that flooded our cinemas this year. Ultimately, “The Wild” is going to be remembered more appropriately alongside “Valiant,” Disney’s last CGI flop, than anything from Pixar or even last year’s “Chicken Little.”
The DVD comes with several deleted scenes, mostly featuring animatics of the final animation. Director Steve Williams and producer Clint Goldman provide commentary for these scenes, which is a nice addition. In addition to a music video from Everlife, there are two fun features to this DVD. One is an assembly of Eddie Izzard’s recording session moments, featuring some hilarious improv.
There’s also a spotlight on Colin Cunningham, one of the animators that lent his voice to the rock hyrax (which provided some much-needed scatological humor to the film). It is this feature that shows at least the crew had fun making the movie.
Although it can be a treat for kids, “The Wild” is at the low end of the field. The kids might be better off with a trip to a real zoo, if they haven’t had their fill of “Madagascar” yet.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (1.78:1), enhanced for 16×9 televisions. French and Spanish language tracks. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.