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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.7%
Worth A Look: 8.7%
Just Average: 15.22%
Pretty Crappy: 32.61%

5 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Open Season
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by Peter Sobczynski

"And If A Bear Can't Find The Woods, Apparently Sony Animation Will Do"
1 stars

Having seen virtually every animated film that has been released so far this year, I can confidently say that I could easily go for a long, long time without seeing another movie involving the wacky adventures of talking animals, automobiles, sporting goods or the like (I am willing to give a pass to the upcoming penguin extravaganza “Happy Feet” and that is only because it is being made by the great George Miller) and I suspect that there are many parents out there who probably feel the same way. If they don’t, they certainly will after watching “Open Season,” an animated feature that is so terrible that it makes even the sorry likes of “Barnyard” seem like “Fantasia” by comparison.

As the film open, we are introduced to Boog (the voice of Martin Lawrence), a grizzly bear who has been living a life of domesticated bliss–eight meals a day, round-the-clock television and an adorable teddy bear that is sure to be found wherever crass merchandising tie-ins are sold–in the garage of Beth (Debra Messing), the park ranger who has raised in since he was a cub and who has trained him to perform silly circus tricks for park visitors. (Kids–don’t try this at home! For reasons why, please consult a DVD of “Grizzly Man.”) While riding home with Beth one day, Boog encounters Elliot (Ashton Kutcher), a one-antlered mule deer who is currently strapped to the hood of Shaw (Gary Sinise), the nastiest hunter in town. Boog frees Elliot, no doubt out of a desire to never hear his wheedling voice again, and later on, Elliot shows up at Boog’s doorstep with an offer to show him a night on the town in repayment for saving his life. In this case, “a night on the town” turns out to be breaking into the local mini-mart and stuffing themselves with candy bars and Slurpees until they are apprehended. At this point, it finally dawns of Beth that there might be a couple of flaws in this particular living arrangement and decides to return Boog, along with Elliot, to the wild.

Unfortunately for Boog, he has become so domesticated that he is utterly useless in the wilderness–he can’t hunt, he can’t fish and he can’t even do that one thing that all bears are supposed to be able to do with ease in the woods. Since he has no great use for the outdoors either, having been ostracized from his own pack, Elliot offers to led Boog back to Beth’s home as long as he can stay there as well. As there is no movie if he says otherwise (not that there is much of one as is), Boog agrees and the two set off on their long journey home. Along the way, they encounter an army of feisty squirrels (led by Billy Connolly), a group of wacky beavers (led by Jon Favreau, apparently doing his Sony-mandated penance for that “Zathura” nonsense) and a raging river that allows for one of those all-too-familiar scenes in which cartoon characters hurtle down things for no particular reason other than to provide an exciting level for the X-Box tie-in game. And since hunting season has just begun (once again, I would like to suggest that Beth is not that bright), they also have to avoid an army of hunters led by the increasingly unhinged Shaw.

As disjointed as this story may sound in the retelling, it is nothing compared to how it actually unfolds. It appears as if a number of writers (seven are credited) were hired and charged with coming up with some kind of story involving talking woodland creatures and when none of them panned out, the people in charge just decided to mash all the individual half-baked ideas into one half-baked screenplay. (Lending credence to this theory is the fact that three of the writers are credited with the screenplay, two more are credited with “screen story” and two more are listed under “From an original story by.) The whole idea of Boog being unable to fend for himself in the wild (a plot premise that needs to be retired immediately) is introduced and then quickly abandoned for the hilarious finale in which he leads the other creatures into striking back at the hunters by blowing them up with propane tanks. We are introduced to the deer clan that Elliot has been ostracized from but never get an idea of why they don’t want him around, other than the fact that he is a one-antlered deer with the voice and manner of the dope from “That 70's Show.”

And since those developments are hardly enough to fill out the not-exactly-epic running time, the filmmakers further pad things out with such reliable gimmicks as a couple of musical montages, an arcane pop-culture reference or two (the aforementioned squirrels are all apparently Scottish, for no other reason than to make people think of “Braveheart”) and plenty of poop jokes (not only does Boog’s inability to relieve himself in the woods become a key plot point, we are even treated to a long bit in which Elliot graphically illustrates that anything a bear can supposedly do in the woods, a deer can do better–literally). As far as I can recall, there is exactly one joke that made me laugh–a weirdly funny non-sequitur in which Elliot tries to wake up Boog by pelting his window with bunny rabbits instead of pebbles (Kids–don’t try this at home! For reasons why, please consult a DVD of “Night of the Lepus”)–but it is repeated so often that even that loses its charm after a while.

The filmmakers also make another key mistake that has become increasingly common in animated films–the mistaken impression that a celebrity voice will somehow save everything. Although there have been great voice performances from top-level stars in animated cartoons (Paul Newman in “Cars” and Tom Hanks in the “Toy Story” movies come to mind), too many famous people are getting these gigs today because of their ability to get on the “Today” show to plug it on opening week than because of their vocal talents. Martin Lawrence frankly sounds bored and vaguely contemptuous throughout–not exactly the qualities you want in your hero–and the only time he sounds alive is during the dark-night-of-the-soul passage when he bemoans his existence and offers up the intriguingly autobiographical lament that “I ride a unicycle for crackers. Casting Kutcher as the wacky Elliot is a slightly better idea in theory–in proper doses, his goofball attitude can be somewhat charming and amusing–but he is so over-the-top obnoxious that even the most dedicated PETA followers in the audience will likely be chanting “Venison! Venison!” whenever he appears. As the guy who could make those dreams come true, Gary Sinise turns in the closest thing to a decent performance here but his character has been so broadly drawn that it is impossible to see him as any sort of threat to anyone other than the NRA. (The most inexplicable performance, however, comes from Paul Westerberg, the brilliant singer-songwriter who was tapped to supply the generally uninspired musical score for reasons I can’t even begin to guess at.)

As bad as “Open Season” is, I fully expect that it will make a decent amount of coin from family audiences looking for something to do–after all, this is the same crowd that made the utterly useless “Barnyard” into a surprise hit. All I can do is implore you to save your money and wait a couple of weeks for the DVD debut of “Monster House,” the wonderful animated film that treated audiences, young and old, with respect and gave them a delightful story without insulting their intelligence. “Open Season,” on the other hand, is nothing more than a piece of product that is so crassly conceived and ineptly executed that it almost feels like one of those parody movies that they will occasionally run a clip from on “The Simpsons.” The difference, of course, is that the clips on “The Simpsons” are usually funny and entertaining because they are so stupid and cliched–alas, this film has the stupid and cliched part down pat but never comes close to achieving the rest.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15251&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/29/06 00:27:46
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User Comments

1/12/09 Anonymous. almost every animated movie i've seen is better than this. 2 stars
7/12/07 Charles Tatum Like Lawrence himself- good for a laugh or two, but then just annoying 2 stars
2/25/07 the wizz new from the 1st scene.........p.o.s!!! 1 stars
2/03/07 cody a cool family feature with lot laughs and some hurtin rabbits. 4 stars
2/02/07 ES worthless, even my kid woudn't watch it 1 stars
1/23/07 Christopher Not oringial at all but some good charchters make it passable. Crappy retread of Bambi. 2 stars
11/15/06 cindy the fur looks really really nice... 5 stars
11/07/06 bored mom Not a good sign when Lawrence plays the sane guy 1 stars
11/05/06 Chris cute movie about how boog adapts to his natural enviroment 4 stars
10/20/06 Alicia it is a funny movie 5 stars
10/20/06 Karan BAD 1 stars
10/17/06 jennifer this movie rox ............NOT 3 stars
10/16/06 Tiffany funny movie, I liked when the animals got revenge on the hunters. 5 stars
10/01/06 marie loved how the fur looked. Great movie 5 stars
9/30/06 michael good story 2 see 4 stars
9/30/06 Pn. A film in which poop jokes are indigenous to the plot, 4 stars
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  29-Sep-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 30-Jan-2007

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  DVD: 12-Feb-2007

  30-Nov-2006 (G)

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