Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Wild

2006 is the year of the animal animation. Earlier in the year, we had the local stinker Zodiac Race, and over the next few months, there are offerings like Over the Hedge, Barnyard, Happy Feet (no doubt inspired by March of the Penguins) and Open Season. It's an animal world out there in the world of animation.

I'm not too sure why this was made. Sure, the graphics were photo-realistic and crisp, and it had the usual elements of modern day animated flicks. But I guess it's time for filmmakers in this genre to realize that the substance of the story is of paramount importance too. Then again, it's meant strictly for kids.

However, even a 3-year old kid who attended the same screening as me, sensed a deja-vu, and didn't take too long to realize that it's so "Madagascar" (2005's offering from Dreamworks). The premise, if you strip it all down, is also about a group of animals from New York Zoo who made their way (so the motivations might differ slightly) to Africa, where they meet nasty native animals, and engage in plenty of mindless song and dance.

The Wild also adapted a few more plot elements from its own library like The Lion King, and incorporated the father-son seeking acceptance relationship from last year's died-in-its-own-hype Chicken Little, and borrowed the "I am God, worship me" plot from Ice Age 2. What gives folks? I'm aware of some rumours that the filmmakers between the Wild and Madagascar split, and those who jumped shipped to Dreamworks managed to get their product out in the market first. Still, having two movies battling each other, doesn't work well for the one released later.

The first half of the movie was bogged down by its melodrama in the fore-mentioned dad-son plot, while the second half dealt out more madcap humour. It's build up to the finale with the bulls wanting to top the food chain, sounded familiar too. There are funny characters abound, but they all lacked somewhat, especially the snake and the giraffe. The joke on the Koala, while fun initially, was repetitive and you'll really want to kick and rip any Koala soft toy out there by the time you're true.

The voice talents did a commendable job with the flimsy story, with the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, James Belushi, Janeane Garofalo, and even William Shatner grunting like animals. But the lineup is quite forgettable, especially with rival Dreamworks' offering in the horizon (also about animals!) Over The Hedge (Hey, got William Shatner too!)

As mentioned, the graphics were great though, but the storyline just stinks. I like the way the Lions were done, could have been a showcase of what The Lion King could have looked like if it was conceived some 10 years later. But you probably want to walk out of the theatre as soon as the animals start dancing to the music in the finale.

Bad rip-off!

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