“The Wild” is more like “The Mild.” But it is pleasant enough; its the timing that’s rotten.
Like last year’s suprisingly successful Madagascar, this is an animated film about zoo animals who have to learn to fend for themselves in the, um, wild. Like last month’s Ice Age: the Meltdown, it has jokes about dung beetles and a character being treated like a god by the natives. In some ways, this film is better than both, but its thunder has been so definitively stolen that it may not recover in time to make much of a showing at the box office.
Kiefer Sutherland lends his warm, deep voice to Samson, the lion, a loving father who is concerned about his son, Ryan (voice of Greg Cipes). At age 11, he still has the roar of a younger cub.
Samson tells Ryan inspirational tales of his own courage back in the days when he was growing up in the wild, but Ryan can’t seem to manage anything more than a sort of mewing squeak. He is disappointed in himself and thinks his father is disappointed in him.
When Ryan impulsively stows away in a container on its way to the docks, Samson goes to rescue him, along with his best friends Benny the squirrel (Jim Belushi), Larry the snake (Richard Kind), Nigel the koala (Eddie Izzard), and Bridget the giraffe (Janeane Garafolo).
Everyone ends up going all the way to Africa, where they have to rescue themselves and each other from predators, would-be predators, and a very ominous-looking volcano.
This would make a better than average straight-to-video but it doesn’t quite have what it takes to hold a big screen. There are some cute characters and one fine, if brief, musical number. A couple of jokes are actually quite funny, making up for the more frequent un-funny ones, many involving getting bonked on the head or crotch or references to bathroom functions. The CGI animation is perfectly acceptable with glimpses of even better now and then, especially Benny’s body language and facial expressions, but from Disney animators we expect our socks to be knocked off and this movie leaves them securely on our feet. Most important, the story, even without the been-there-with-penguins feeling, is not very strong, leaving us wishing it was all a bit more…wild.
Parents should know that this film has some peril and apparent injury and death, though ultimately no one gets hurt. Some children may be upset by the separation of children from their parents, in one case apparently permanently (and following parental disapproval that could be interpreted as leading to abandonment). Characters use some mild crude language and there is some potty humor and some humor based on getting hit on the head and in the crotch. A strength of the movie is the loyal friendships (and one romance) between diverse species.
Families who see this movie should talk about how each of us must find our “roar.” They might also enjoy learning more about the Serengeti and the animals that live there. This does not include koalas, of course, who are from Australia.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Ice Age and The Lion King.