Open Season (PG)



Family (2006)
86mins US

Starring: Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Billy Connolly
Director: Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi, Roger Allers
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Friendly park ranger Beth lives in a close-knit mountainside town with her best friend, a grizzly bear called Boog, who is domesticated enough to sleep in the garage. Following an ill-fated night on the tiles with a wise-cracking deer called Elliott, Boog is reluctantly released back into the wild where he must fend for himself. Unfortunately, hunting season has just begun in earnest, and hunters travel from far and wide to shoot the local wildlife. Elliott and Boog become unlikely buddies in an effort to stay alive, enlisting the help of the other animals to keep the gun-toting hunters at bay.

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LondonNet Film Review

Open Season

Open Season

Aside from Pixar's computer animated automobiles, 2006 has been the year of talking animals, from Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and The Wild to Over The Hedge, Garfield 2 and Ant Bully. Open Season continues the disappointing trend, contriving an inter-species buddy movie during hunting season in a picturesque forest town.

While the visuals are colourful and the pace exceedingly brisk, the screenplay lacks humour and emotion. Not once do the writers, Steven Bencich, Ron J. Friedman and Nat Maudlin, attempt to get beneath the pelts of their four-legged characters. Director Roger Allers previously helmed the Oscar-winning Lion King but his new film is no king of the jungle, and the inexperience of co-directors Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi, both making their debuts, certainly shows. Forest ranger Beth (voiced by Debra Messing) lives in the close-knit community of Timberline with her best friend, a grizzly bear called Boog (Martin Lawrence), who is domesticated and sleeps in the garage with his teddy bear Dinkelman.

The locals adore Boog, so too do the tourists who flock to watch the 900lb bear ride a unicycle as part of the Wild Life Show hosted by Beth in the nearby amphitheatre. The only person who harbours any ill feelings towards Boog is sadistic hunter Shaw (Gary Sinise), who would gladly mount the bear's head on his wall, given half a chance. Sheriff Gordy (Gordon Tootoosis) constantly reminds Beth that her beloved Boog is a wild animal and must one day be released back into the forest.

"The longer you leave it, the harder it will be for him to adapt, and the harder it will be for you to let go," says Gordy tenderly. Following an ill-fated night on the tiles with a wise-cracking mule deer called Elliot (Ashton Kutcher), Boog is reluctantly released back into the wild where he must fend for himself. Unfortunately, hunting season has just begun in earnest, and hunters travel from far and wide to shoot the local wildlife. Elliot and Boog become unlikely buddies in an effort to stay alive, enlisting the help of the other animals - including McSquizzy the deranged squirrel (Billy Connolly), head beaver Reilly (Jon Favreau) and a beautiful doe called Giselle (Jane Krakowski) - to keep the gun-toting hunters at bay.

"When I'm a bear skin rug, they can walk all over me, but until then, I'm gonna fight!" growls Boog and so begins the war between nature and mankind. Open Season cannot lasso a single laugh. The jokes are an embarrassment, like when Elliot loses one of his antlers and quips, "half doe, half buck - I'm a duck!" Lawrence and Kutcher's vocal performances certainly don't lack energy but they are on a hiding to nothing with the misfiring screenplay. Sinise's chief villain poses no threat whatsoever. In this computer animated comedy, the great outdoors is anything but.


- Heather Von Bourne


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