Presented By: Walt Disney Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I saw the preview for The Wild, I was instantly taken in by the film’s adorable cast of characters – the koala in particular. The movie seemed funny in a not-so-childish sort of way, quite like Hoodwinked and Shrek. The story sounded familiar – daddy lion and his zoo friends resolve to save his cub from whoever has mysteriously carted him off. However, several of the previews were so funny and made the movie so appealing, my friend and I resolved to see it as soon as it hit the theaters.
The story begins inside The New York Zoo where Samson, courageous lion and star attraction at the zoo, is telling his son, Ryan, a tale from his past adventures in the wild. Each day, Samson tells a new story in hopes that it will inspire Ryan to develop his roar, which presently amounts to nothing more than a cat hiss. Ryan’s unsuccessful efforts to develop his roar are frustrating to no end. He begs his father to bring him to the wild, so he can be as courageous and powerful as his father. The pigeons have told Ryan that the large green boxes go to the wild often. Samson discourages any attempt to ride the green boxes, assuring his son that his roar won’t develop from any trip to the wild, but rather, from his heart.
One fateful night, after an argument with his father, Ryan hides in one of the green boxes. To his shock, the door to the box is sealed shut and he is carted away from the zoo. Sampson and his friends, a giraffe, an anaconda, a koala and a squirrel, set off on a journey to New York City, where the green boxes are loaded aboard ships en route to the wild, in an attempt to reclaim Ryan and return him to his home at the zoo. Things don’t go according to plan and the group finds themselves on the journey of a lifetime.
At first glance, the story of The Wild is nothing new. In fact, it’s very reminiscent of Finding Nemo. Like Nemo, the movie is a computer-animated adventure with a father searching for his son. However, this tale is only like Finding Nemo on the surface. The story only begins in a similar nature, but as we journey along with Samson and his friends, we discover that Samson has not revealed everything about his past. Things that he has kept hidden for years could have a profound affect on his son’s life. While Ryan is attempting to become a great lion like his father, Samson struggles to aspire to the heights of the persona he has created for his son.
As in all Disney movies, The Wild is blessed with a talented all-star cast: Keifer Sutherland as Samson, Greg Cipes as Ryan, Jim Belushi as Benny the Squirrel, Janeane Garofalo as Bridget the Giraffe, Eddie Izard as Nigel the Koala, Richard Kind as Larry the Anaconda, and William Shatner as Kazar the Wildebeest. Each actor brings a uniqueness and believability to each character. Most Disney movies contain an incredible musical score and The Wild is no exception, including songs from popular artists like Lifehouse, Everlife and Coldplay and original score by composer Alan Silvestri (Van Helsing, The Polar Express, Lilo & Stitch).
Director Steve “Spaz” Williams and producer Clint Goldman used their vast experience with computer generated technology at ILM to create artistic and lifelike animals set in beautifully detailed locations. The comedy mixed in throughout this adventure is hilarious, though, I wonder just how much of it was geared toward children. Looking around at all of the patrons of the movie, I can’t help wondering how many of the attendees under 15 understood some of the humor. For example, when Bridgette the Giraffe says to would-be squirrel suitor Benny, “Stop looking at my spots. My eyes are up here,” one wonders what the children are thinking. The humor is much like that found in Hoodwinked and Shrek, geared adults, with slapstick comedy aimed to please the children.
There are several messages in the film – what Disney tale would be without messages to learn? Be true to yourself and follow your heart would be one message. One could argue that there is a message about mixed relationships as witnessed in the giraffe-squirrel coupling. Of course, one begins to wonder what the folks were thinking when they gave the pigeons Indian accents. I’m sure that someone will be protesting that just as they did Watto’s and Jar Jar’s accents in Star Wars: Episode I. Sometimes, I think people take things to seriously.
In closing, I must say that The Wild is a terrifically fun time had by all. You find a reason to laugh from the opening to the closing credits. The animation is spectacular and the storyline brings a twist to the father-searches-for-son Disney tale. Take your children to see this movie! Better yet, make it an adventure between you and another adult! Either way, you won’t be disappointed.