Please remember what we’ve learned the past few years. Just because a film is animated and has the Disney name on it doesn’t mean it’s any good. In fact, sometimes it’s actually pretty bad. (“Treasure Planet,” anyone? No? No takers?)
As the new Exhibit A, I offer “The Wild,” a lame, half-witted adventure that is probably the worst cartoon Disney has ever produced. (I never saw “The Black Cauldron.”) It offers no real laughs, no excitement, no adventure, and no interesting characters. It’s so unmemorable that when it ended, I had already forgotten how it began.
The computer animation is pretty, though.
If you saw last year’s “Madagascar,” you a) deserve a refund, and b) have already seen “The Wild.” In the New York Zoo, a young lion named Ryan (voice of Greg Cipes) is mopey because he can’t roar very well yet — or, as his dad puts it, “he’s 11, but he’s still roaring at a 9-year-old level.” Of course, an 11-year-old lion would be fully grown and actually quite elderly, the equivalent of about a 65-year-old man, but never mind.
After an argument with his dad, whose name is Samson (Kiefer Sutherland), Ryan scampers off and hides in a storage compartment that is subsequently hauled out of the zoo and put on a ship bound for Africa. Samson must then start finding Nemo — er, Ryan — with the help of a streetwise squirrel (James Belushi), a demure giraffe (Janeane Garofalo), a persnickety koala (Eddie Izzard) and a dizzy snake (Richard Kind).
They all wind up in Africa, where nobody knows how to survive because they were born in captivity, and there’s a cult of wildebeests who want to become carnivores, and they intend to start practicing on the lions, and there’s a dance number. Honestly, a dance number.
These films take years to make, of course, so it’s hard to tell whether the similarities between “The Wild” and “Madagascar” are the result of thievery or coincidence. (We all remember the “Antz”/”A Bug’s Life” one-two punch of 1998.) But the fact is, Disney knew “Madagascar” would be released first. So why proceed with a film knowing it would be dismissed as a copycat? Pride and arrogance, I assume. Why else?
But the fact is, even if it didn’t feel derivative of “Madagascar,” “The Wild” (directed sans-style by first-timer Steve “Spaz” Williams) would still be a terrible film. It’s not 20 minutes old before there’s a tender pop song on the soundtrack to tell us we should feel sad about the rift between Ryan and Samson — waaaaay too early for a desperate grab at our emotions — and it’s less than 10 minutes later when Coldplay pops up as the animals tour Manhattan. (What “Clocks” has to do with hiding in a garbage truck as it drives through Times Square, I don’t know.)
This kind of shorthand reeks of amateurism, and with four credited writers, you’d think someone would know how to write a funny line or execute an amusing sight gag, but no. Instead it’s — you guessed it — farts and poop jokes! Which can be funny, sure, but not when they’re as lazy as these ones are.
Yes, that’s the word for it. Lazy. The film feels like a rough draft that was dashed off in an afternoon with the intention of coming back later and filling in some comedy and characterization and originality, and then somehow they got sidetracked and never got around to it. It’s tempting to call it “The Mild,” but I’m not sure it’s even interesting enough to be considered mild.
(If you must see it, here is a game you can play to pass the time. Every time the Kiefer Sutherland lion speaks, pretend it’s Jack Bauer talking. Many of the lines actually transfer pretty well, like when he insists he must go search for his son ALONE! And that there’s NO TIME TO ARGUE!! And when he yells “WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?!?” while shooting a kangaroo in the leg. OK, I made that one up.)
D (1 hr., 25 min.; )