Carmike Stadium 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown
Remember that year when Hollywood dealt us the competing giant-asteroids-are-coming-to-kill-us movies? It was 1998, and we all acted as if this heralded some sort of, well, creative apocalypse final and irrevocable proof that the movie industry was officially Out of Ideas. And then we saw the films, and love 'em or hate 'em, we had to concede that they were about as different as two studio movies about giant asteroids coming to kill us could be.
That creative apocalypse may be upon us now, however, for I have never seen a film so blatantly like another as The Wild is like last year's Madagascar. Legal professors could stand these two flicks side by side to demonstrate the concept of "points of similarity" that help determine whether a work has been plagiarized.
From very large ideas to small details, there are too many points of convergence for this to be mere coincidence. It's shocking that anyone, even in Hollywood, thought to attempt such brazenness. While the parallels between the two films might actually verge on the actionable, the real crime The Wild commits is being incomparably dull.
Lion cub Ryan (the voice of Greg Cipes) has a "roar" that's a laughable squeak, and his overprotective father Samson (Kiefer Sutherland) must go after his son when the cub escapes from the zoo in search of untamed places where he can work on his roar.
Yup, shades of Finding Nemo and The Lion King, too. And don't think there won't be a reference to the latter once Samson and his animal pals get a ride through Times Square, right past where the stage-musical version of that Disney flick is playing. It won't be a funny reference, though. As with many other attempts at humor here, it appears that the filmmakers believed merely mentioning something New York-ish would be amusing.
The running allusion (it can hardly be called a joke) to the Statue of Liberty through the first half of the film has a curiously forced quality to it, as if simple repetition would somehow make it amusing. It results in a dead-eyed soullessness where Madagascar truly captured the essence of New York and New Yorkers, The Wild can't seem to get a grip on it.
Janeane Garofalo is unrecognizable in the character of Bridget, a giraffe who's meant to be snarky but is just sort of blandly whiny. Eddie Izzard all but disappears as the voice of Nigel the koala bear. Even William Shatner and Patrick Warburton sadly are given very little opportunity to show off their Shatnerishness and Warburtonishness as a pair of contentious wildebeests on an African island, where the plot rather ridiculously migrates.
The humor is crude and juvenile (a squirrel gets stuck up a lion's nostril!), the sentiment is goopy, and there's a sappy ballad on the soundtrack. But if you can get past the scene in which a starving Samson doesn't even unconsciously or unwillingly see his pals as meat, Alex-the-lion-in-Madagascar-style ... well then, you're a better animation fan than I am, Charlie Brown.