I love CGI. I love the textures, the way every single hair and feather, every leaf and raindrop, every shiny, fuzzy, smooth, rough, soft, hard surface is perfectly perfect. But I realized, as I watched this movie, that one of the things I’ve missed in CGI is the elasticity and bounce, the freedom of hand-drawn cartoons. One of the great pleasures of this movie is the way it takes the physical properties of the real world as a starting point for a wildly hilarious and fantastically silly extravaganza.
The themes are nothing new, but they are executed with so much wit and brio that they feel close to classic. We have the incompatible duo on a journey who learn to trust and respect each other. We have the search for the meaning of home, and we have the great metaphor for growing up — going out into the wild world and becoming independent.
Boog (voice of Martin Lawrence) is a bear who has it made. He lives in a garage and tender-hearted park ranger Beth (voice of Deborah Messing) makes sure he has food, “Wheel of Fortune,” his snuggly stuffed toy and soft bed. She even sings him Teddy Bears’ Picnic every night as a lullabye. It is perfect.
Then a one-antlered mule deer named Elliot (voice of Ashton Kutcher) shows up and ruins everything. He is captured before hunting season by an animal-hater named Shaw (voice of Gary Sinese), who plays air guitar on his rifle and has a cabin filled with trophies. Boog frees Elliot, and then Elliot gets Boog in trouble so that Beth takes him deep into the woods just as open season for hunters is about to begin. Boog needs to get home, and much as he hates the idea, he needs Elliot to help him get there.
And so the two embark on a journey that will bring them many adventures, introduce them to some (literally) wild characters, and give them a great deal of knowledge about themselves and the world. Fortunately, it is also very funny. Especially the porcupine. Lawrence’s low, grumbly voice is perfect for Boog and well balanced by Kutcher’s goofy energy. Billy Connelly brings Scots asperity to his Braveheart-style squirrel, and Patrick Warburton (“Seinfeld’s” Puddy) is all manly, well, stag-ly posturing as the head of the herd. The visual and verbal gags keep things moving briskly, and the characters keep our interest and earn our affection.
Parents should know that this movie has some crude schoolyard language and humor (references to “nuts,” barfing, “the f-word” — fight, tush jokes). The theme of animals being hunted may be disturbing to some audiences; other audience members may not like the portrayal of hunters as mean and not very smart.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Beth was proud of Boog. What makes a home?
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Over the Hedge and the classic Yogi Bear cartoons.