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Open SeasonOpen Season on DVD

by Jim Bray

I'm not really a huge fan of most sequels, but Open Season made me look forward to seeing Shrek 3. After all, what better annoying talking animal has there been in a recent computer animated features than Eddie Murphy's donkey from the Shrek films?

But no, we get Open Season.  Oh, it's not horrible, but when you hold up against just about everything that Pixar has done (except possibly cars) as well as the Shrek franchise,   there's just no comparison.

The star of the movie is a bear named Boog, voiced by Martin Lawrence, a mostly domesticated critter in the vein of Elsa from Born Free.  Boog lives in a park ranger's garage, more like a crazy aunt than a domesticated animal, and puts on shows for nature lovers.  It's a dumb concept, because in what's really quite a politically correct movie, we don't have any nature protesters picketing Boog's house trying to get him set free.

And I know, it's only a cartoon, but even a fantasy needs a kind of logic.

Anyway, all is tickety-boo until the bear rescues a deer named Elliot, voiced by Ashton Kutcher, who gloms on to Boog the same way Eddie Murphy's donkey glommed on the Shrek in that first feature.  Elliott is an accident just waiting to happen, and wouldn't you know the accidents happen. So Boog's owner, voiced by Debra Messing, is forced to get rid of them and she decides to set him free.

Naturally, it's easier said than done to free a domesticated animal, as anyone who watched Born Free will already know. So our hairy hero becomes the proverbial fish out of water, though in this case it's more a bear out of civilization, which anyway you slice it is still a weird oxymoron-like situation.

Most of the remaining film sees Elliot and the bear "Boogy-woogying" through the forest, interacting with various other critters that are supposed to be cute.

But what's a story without a villain, and what's a politically correct tale without a right wing whacko villain, so here we get a redneck hunter (voiced by Gary Sinise), who's out to get pretty well any forest critter he can set his sights on.

It's all very predictable and quite lame for the most part.  But it could be a lot worse and, while the typical stereotypes from Hollywood fill the movie, we're not beaten over the head with them as badly as I expected they would.

On the upside, the animation is pretty good, though not up to the best Pixar standards and the voice performances are all given by good actors.  But if you really want to see a good animated movie about animals, there are better choices, right from Bambi on forward.

And what kind of messages does this movie sent to today's kids? We see a store trashed, and no one is held responsible (probably because the store owner is undoubtedly an evil capitalist), and we're shown that when wild animals go after human beings (even bad human beings) it's cute. There's more, but I don't want to beat you over the head with it, either.

The DVD is pretty good, however.  The picture quality is very nice, sharp and clean and colorful. I received the widescreen special edition, which is enhanced for 16x9 TVs and looks very good indeed.

Audio is featured in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, and it's also very good.

And this being just the type of feature that cries out for a bunch of extras, whether you want them or not, the special edition includes plenty of extras. Here's a listing:

  • "Wheel of Fortune" Forest Edition game
  • Inside the animals studio
  • Making-of
  • The Voices Behind the Stars
  • Voice-A-Rama: See what the characters sound like with different accents
  • Music video
  • Deleted scenes
  • Filmmakers commentary
  • Ring tales
  • Art gallery
  • Beat boards
  • DVD-Rom link to online fun
  • Sneak peek at "Surf's Up"

Open Season on DVD, from Sony pictures Home Entertainment.86 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital 5.1 surround,
 Starring the voices of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Gary Sinise, Debra Messing.
Produced by Michelle Murocca,
written by Steve Bencich, Ron, J. Friedman and Nat Maudlin, directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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