The Wild

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A lion and his friends rule the zoo at night, after all the people have gone home. When one of their own ends up missing, the animals escape from the zoo, travel around the urban jungle, and then wind up on a jungle island where they have to adapt to the…

Heard it before? Yet despite its extreme similarities to Madagascar, Walt Disney Studios’ The Wild is a very different picture. Sure the storyline may be very close, at least until the animals get on the island (which, granted, is the bulk of the film) but Disney takes a far different approach to the story that Dreamworks released last year.

The most obvious difference is the visual approach to the movie. While Madagascar went with a heavily stylized, cartoonish feel, Disney takes a more realistic approach to its film. The result is stunning at times, with lush jungles and furry animals that look almost lifelike. The CGI animation is quite impressive most of the time, with one downfall. Because the animals are made to look so real, they lose some of their expressiveness. The extremely talented vocal abilities of the cast make up for the lost visual, but it is still a loss for the movie.

The second difference is that this is not a buddy picture like its predecessor. The story here centers around a father and son set of lions who can’t seem to communicate properly, leading to the son running off in an attempt to discover his inner roar by traveling to “the wild.” This element takes the story in a very usual Disney direction, focusing on a character (or characters) who are trying to find their place in the world. Because of that, the movie carries elements of Disney’s biggest animated hit, The Lion King. Some people will tell you Disney’s just ripping off as many pictures as they can with this film, but I think the nods to The Lion King are strong points for this film, and an element that really separates it from Madagascar.

The film goes in an interesting direction for the cast, handing roles over to very non-Disney style actors like Kiefer Sutherland, Janeane Garofalo, and most notably, Eddie Izzard. The actors do a marvelous job of bringing very strong characters to life. I had great concerns from the trailers that the movie would try to set Izzard’s koala character up to be that annoying breakout character for the film. The truth is the film sets all of the characters up that way. There isn’t a character here that doesn’t serve a purpose for the story and really get a chance to shine, with unique personalities and performances for all. Besides, where else are you going to get a film with Izzard and William Shatner?

Disney’s The Wild is a fun movie with fun characters, entertaining visuals, and a Disney style-story that most people will be able to relate to. So what if it bears a striking similarity to another picture released in the last year? That shouldn’t keep you from enjoying it, possibly even more than the other film.