Wildlife shows. Even if you could care less about nature, there's something alluring about wildlife shows. Animals are funny and do funny things; even serious things they do, from killing to screwing, is entertaining. To top things off, the colorful personalities that present these animals, from the British narrative ("Watch as the lion provides subtle deliverance to his mate") to insane adventurers like Steve Irwin, are always over-the-top. But nothing compares to the absurd, smoke-fried, idiotic nature show featured in Strange Wilderness.
Steve Zahn's latest so-so comedy, Strange Wilderness, is no Superbad, no matter how hard it tries. Relying on silly jokes, goofy, slapstick antics and some nicely timed swear words, the movie is your typical pot-smoking adventure, only without any clever drug references. Strange Wilderness is pretty random, as Zahn and his cohort of idiots manage to get in fights, attacked by piranhas, bitten by sharks and even assaulted by big foot, so on and so forth. While its randomness gives it a sense of charm, it rarely works in the audience's favor. Random adventure movies work best when each random moment is more absurd than the last, a la Harold and Kumar, but Strange Wilderness rarely tries to outdo itself. The presentation is plain with occasional bits of cleverness, hardly a tour de force.
There are pockets of humor throughout, however. The 84-minute running time goes by quickly, and there are some highlights. The narrated footage of wildlife are pretty funny, as Zahn provides commentary on creatures he knows nothing about. One of the funniest moments is a clip from his show where he's talking about monkeys in South America. Did you know that monkeys in South America make up 80% of the entire monkey population? That there are gazelles in South America? Lions? The guys in Strange Wilderness are so stupid that it's hard not to laugh at times.
Still, director Fred Wolf could have done a lot more with the movie. A few tweaks here and there could have made it a decent comedy; a few refinements would have it made it worthwhile. The quest for Bigfoot seems like an afterthought, and when the big "F" finally shows up, the movie shuttles away from the topic way too quickly. The presence of gorgeous Ashley Scott is weird, too, as they really do nothing with her. Make her a love interest, make her a bitch, make her something, but for God's sake, don't do nothing with her. Oddly enough, there is one split-second sequence where it appears she's having sex with one of the characters, but the scene is so out of left field - and gone as quickly as it appears - that it's unclear what Wolf was thinking. This is the main problem with the film in general; it doesn't stick to a common theme or joke, and when the movie does come across something that's actually funny, Wolf generally doesn't hang on it long enough to let it sink in with the audience.
Nevertheless, the zaniest of the characters make the movie slightly worthwhile. Zahn is goofy enough, though isn't it strange that his best movies are all serious films (Rescue Dawn, Shattered Glass and, to some degree, Joy Ride)? Jonah Hill, Justin Long, Peter Dante and Allen Covert (as Fred Wolf) are all okay in supporting roles, but none are used to their full potential.
Strange Wilderness has its moments, but the movie is a bit of a scrambled mess. Those who can't wait until Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay hits DVD may find some solace in this film, but it won't be enough.
Review by Robert Bell (D-)It seems that every couple of months there is an R-Rated comedy looking to score with young men. The qualities of these films vary, and are more often than not bad. Strange Wilderness is no exception. In fact, it might be one of the worst ensemble comedies to hit the big screen in years. Unless you are amused by incoherent shouting and turkey fellatio, or happen to be under the influence of herbal enhancements while viewing, you are unlikely to enjoy any part of this sloppy film. Written & Directed by Fred Wolf (Joe Dirt, Dickie Roberts), this film feels improvised throughout, in a bad way.
Peter and Fred (Steve Zahn and Allen Covert) have a television show called Strange Wilderness. Each episode features the team investigating a different animal, often making raunchy comments about them and their mating habits. As the show is struggling in ratings, the pair decides to go to the Andes in search of Bigfoot. Prior to their departure they enlist a crew including Jonah Hill (The young man from Superbad who looks suspiciously like a potato with arms), Kevin Heffernan (of Broken Lizards' fame), Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers, Live Free and Die Hard), and Ashley Scott (Jericho). As they wander through the wilderness in search of Bigfoot hijinks ensue; often involving the mutilation, or hitting of male genitalia.
This film appears to have been written by a couple of buddies who smoked a lot of pot while watching nature videos. At the time of writing, their commentary about the animals likely seemed amusing to them, but they probably should have reread their material after sobering up. The narrative flow of the film is mostly indecipherable. There appears to be little logic to any actions of the characters, and even less logic surrounding their motivations. Long smokes pot a lot, Heffernan talks about being an alcoholic, Hill hits people in the crotch with a hand buzzer, Zahn yells a lot, and Scott acts like a dippy blonde. That is essentially the extent of the development in this film.
The direction is equally incoherent. Each sequence is filmed without any visual context in mind, and often feels incomplete. Not unlike what might happen if several drunken frat boys filmed their shenanigans at their parents' cottage over the May-24 weekend. The most creative shot in the film involves multiple parties attempting to pull a turkey off of Zahn's visibly rubber penis.
As far as performances are concerned, this film should be an embarrassment to all involved, except perhaps Harry Hamlin, who was likely jazzed to be getting work. Steve Zahn just came off his critically acclaimed performance in Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn. One can only hope that he was fairly compensated for his "work" in this "film". Jonah Hill, having just come off of one of the most successful comedies of the year, should have known that a role, which featured a hand buzzer, probably wasn't going to continue his comedic winning streak.
It would be difficult to recommend this film to anyone. Except perhaps un-showered teenagers who take great pride in their personally manufactured bongs. Avoid this one at all costs.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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