a critiQal film review The Wild (2006)

Plot: When his son Ryan (Cipes) is accidentally taken away from their home in the Zoo, Samson the Lion (Sutherland) sets out on a rescue mission. Determined to help in any way they can are his friends: Benny the Squirrel (Belushi), Nigel the Koala (Izzard), Bridget the Giraffe (Garofalo) and Larry the Snake (Kind). Together, they set out on a search for Ryan that will take them through New York City...and beyond.

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  • ...although it's an inferior rip-off of Madagascar, it's not without it's good points

Since we have an online subscription to Blockbuster®, not only do we get 3 movies shipped to us at a time, we also get about 2 coupons a month we can use for free rentals at our local store. When we found out our latest coupons would expire soon, we used that as an excuse to rush to the store and pick up 2 new films: Thank You For Smoking and The Wild.

When we first started seeing previews for The Wild, I was unsure if it I wanted to see it at all. From what I could tell, the plot seemed to be about a couple of animals (including a lion and a giraffe) escape from the zoo and go wild in New York City. Hmmm…that seems to ring a few bells, doesn’t it? Madagascar (2005), anyone?

Needless to say, Heather and I weren’t really excited about watching what seemed to be a blatant Madagascar (2005) rip-off, so we passed on seeing this one in theaters. It caught our eye while in the store the other day, however, so we decided we might as well check it out. So, would The Wild be just the Madagascar (2005) rip-off it seemed to be, or would it the previews be doing the film a great injustice?

Kiefer Sutherland, hot right now thanks to his hit show “24” (TV) lends his voice to the main character in The Wild, Samson the Lion. Unfortunately, he’s up against tough competition in the realm of animated lions, as he will inevitably be compared to James Earl Jones as the voice of Mustafa in The Lion King (1994). While he doesn’t measure up to that, Kiefer does do a good job in the role, and doesn’t disappoint.

It helps that fans of “24” (TV) will recognize the similarities between his role in The Wild and his role in the first season of “24” (TV). In “24” (TV), his daughter and wife had been kidnapped and he does what he can to find them; in The Wild, his son has been taken away from him, and he leads a rescue mission to find him. This similarity helps bolster his standings in the animated lion category (at least among “24” (TV) fans), as it helps the viewer forget about comparing him to Mustafa.

The rest of the cast help provide comic relief in The Wild. Janeane, as usual, brings her usual dry wit with her into her role as a giraffe, and Eddie’s constant one-liners will elicit laughs aplenty (for more with Eddie, be sure to check out one of the bonus features on the DVD, as they tape Eddie during some of the recording sessions). Jim Belushi as a squirrel is also comical, and Richard Kind as the snake provides the idiot of the group – always good for a laugh or two, according to Hollywood.

Sadly, the plot will definitely remind viewers of Madagascar (2005). It’s very similar, with very few changes to make it unique. Sure, they are on a rescue mission rather than being shipped themselves, but the basic premise – and the problems they encounter – are largely familiar. Unfortunately, Madagascar (2005) is put together a lot better, and so The Wild suffers as a weak imitator.

The animation in The Wild is decently done, although the computer-generated images are a bit different than viewers are used to seeing from Disney. While the new style does takes a bit of getting used to, the film gives viewers ample time to adjust before the movie really gets under way.

The Wild is not put together as well as viewers would expect from Disney. With an 82 minute running time, The Wild tries to fit in too many different sequences. The movie starts off slow, as the build-up to Ryan leaving the zoo (which includes a zany animal shuffleboard contest) takes quite a bit of time. Since the plot doesn’t really get under way until after that build-up, the movie has to cram the rest of the sequences into a very short amount of time.

The solution the filmmakers come up with is quick sequences, with fade-to-black graphics all over the place. Unfortunately, rather than speeding the film up in the viewer’s eye, these slow the movie down to a comparable snail’s pace. Apparently, viewers have gotten used to seeing longer scenes, so the viewer’s mind assumes that these scenes are just as long. Because of this, the mind is fooled into believing the film is a lot longer than it actually is (after seeing it, I would have guessed at least 2 hours, so the 82 minute running time came as a big surprise).

While The Wild is an inferior rip-off of Madagascar (2005), it’s not without it’s good points. Fans of “24” (TV) will appreciate Kiefer’s role in the film, and the very funny Eddie Izzard helps provide a lot of hilarity. Decent enough for a rental, and kids will probably enjoy the heck out of it – but definitely not worth owning.

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