Film review by: Witney Seibold
This film, the latest in Disney’s increasingly withering animated stock, and directed by Steve “Spaz” Williams, is worth seeing for the following reasons: Eddie Izzard plays a snarky koala. Most of his dialogue was improvised, so those familiar with the Britsish transvestite’s comedy will roll around at the sound of Eddie uttering phrases like “party hats of death.” It’s hard to explain why to the uninitiated. Kiefer Sutherland plays a lion, and gets to say things like “No parkin’ on the dancefloor!” and “I’m the lion of the sea!” It’s nice, after all that 24 I’ve been watching, to see Kiefer play a role that is silly and broad. Both James Belushi and Patrick Warburton appear, and they are both very, very good at voice acting (incidentally, they both appeared in the recent Hoodwinked, and were both very good in that). William Shatner (!) appears as an evil gnu, and, amazingly, plays the role straight. Go Shatner! The Wild is still broad and typical, and does indeed fit into the quotidian Disney mold (single parent, child in danger, talking animals, classic structure, blah, blah, blah), but it is far, far better than the similar Madagascar from last year.
The Wild is the latest in what has become a full blown sub-genre of film: the computer-animated semi-anthropomorphized talking-animal film. Madagascar, Over the Hedge, Open Season, The Barnyard, Valiant, Ice Age 1 & 2, Shark Tale, Finding Nemo… Do we need all these movies? Would any of them have made it to the big screen if they were traditionally cell-animated a decade ago, or are they just receiving the green light because we want to try out our new hair-and-muscle-movement CGI programs that we spent so much on? The Wild is a fun film, but, like most in the genre, a trifle.
The resemblances of this film to the horrible Madagascar are a little too uncanny to have anyone suspect that one was not ripped off from the other: both involve lions and giraffes escaping from a New York zoo and traveling to Africa to rediscover their “wild” roots. The Wild is a bit more plausible, though, and the animals have a better design and are better animated. The jokes work better… the film is just better.
Another word about computer animation. Bully to those of you who wrote those CGI programs for realistic muscles and hair. But putting realistic muscles and hair on a broadly-designed cartoon character results in an uncanny creepiness.
-April 14th, Disney