Open Season

There are two ways you can evaluate a movie like Open Season. The first is to simply judge it as a film. Is it any good? The second is to ask whether or not your kids will like it. This review (and any review I write) will approach it from the first perspective because let's face it, if the movie has talking animals in it your pint-sized terrors are going to love it. Children like anything, as long as it's animated and they've received enough sugar before viewing it. That's great for parents, since it means they can plop them down in front of the television and entertain them for hours with discount straight-to-video DVDs, but it's not so great for the rest of us since it gives Hollywood a license to print money without having to bother with earning it by making something good.

Open Season for instance, is not good. The idea it's based on might have been; a computer animated comedy about animals taking back the forest from hunters could work. But the movie takes so long in getting to hunter torture that you'll find yourself bored to death long before the first animal finally rips off someone's underwear. When the melee finally does happen, you won't laugh because you've seen all the best bits from the film in the trailers. There's nothing there beyond the advertisements except a lot of time spent watching a bland bear and a fast-talking deer knockoff of Shrek's pal Donkey, wander around in badly rendered CGI circles.

The bear's name is Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence), and he's a tame bear. Anyone who's seen Grizzly Man might find themselves a little uncomfortable with this notion. People who think their bears are tame generally learn the hard way that they are in fact, not. Luckily, this is a family movie, so Boog's owner Ranger Beth avoids ending up looking like she's beaten a wookie at holographic chess. Instead, she gets a clue when Boog allows himself to be lured into busting up convenience store by a wild, one-horned deer named Elliot (voiced by Ashton Kutcher). Beth realizes her bear buddy needs to go back into the wild, and drops Boo and Elliot off in the woods right at the start of hunting season.

Right away they're pursued by a particularly knarly hunter, and seeing him butting heads with Boo and Elliot might have been fun. But it's at least thirty minutes into the film before we even get to the forest, and once we get there the majority of the rest of the story is spent watching Boog and Elliot get lost, and wander around in circles. After awhile, the movie starts repeating itself. Boo and Elliot lose their way, a bunch of gags ensue, they figure out where they are again, only to lose their way once more and repeat the same gags. It feels like Steve Bencich and Ron J. Friedman, the film's writers, were stretching. They had an idea, but couldn't make it long enough for a feature film and started padding it. The result is a movie that's only 99 minutes, but feels like it's about 207.

The worst thing about it is that Sony's Animation Division really isn't up to the challenge of making a decent looking computer animated film yet. That might be forgivable if the story was better; great story and great characters can easily overcome technological limitations, but Open Season doesn't have that. There are a few interesting moments, like a clever scene in which Boo and Elliot encounter a herd of ill-tempered deer and even better there's a funny pit stop for a chat with a group of surly beavers. But even those good moments are wasted, since the film fails to build on them or take them anywhere that pays off. Will Open Season make a lot of money? Will your kids love it? Yes. Is it a good movie? Not at all.

Josh Tyler