Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Alpha and Omega

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for rude humor and some mild action
Profanity:Brief schoolyard language
Nudity/Sex:Some crude potty humor and some mild references to mating
Alcohol/Drugs:Tranquilizer darts
Violence/Scariness:Characters in peril, chases, scary bears, chases, guns, no one hurt
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:September 17, 2010
DVD Release Date:January 11, 2011

Two young Canadian wolves representing the extremes of the social scale join forces in the animated “Alpha and Omega,” which keeps them stuck in the bland middle. Though the visuals are in 3D, the film barely manages to register in one. “Alpha and Omega” gives us an episodic story with an uneasy mix of slapstick and peril that drains the momentum, along with lackluster art direction that saps the visual interest.

Kate (the voice of Hayden Panettiere) was born to be an alpha wolf, daughter of the pack leader and trained to hunt caribou. Humphrey (Justin Long) is the happy-go-lucky omega.

Caribou are getting scarce, and the uneasy truce between the wolves led by Tony (Dennis Hopper, in his penultimate role) and the wolves led by Kate’s father, Winston (Danny Glover), is fraying. There’s also some nattering about eastern vs. western wolves that makes them sound like rival college football teams or gangsta rappers.

Tony proposes that the packs join forces, with a marriage between Kate and his jock-like son to bring the two groups together. But American forest rangers capture Kate and Humphrey and carry them off to Idaho, hoping they will repopulate the area.

With some guidance from a golf-playing goose (even the wildly funny Larry Miller can’t give that character any vitality) Kate and Humphrey (an “African Queen” reference?) start for home. Their adventures on the way back include being shot at by a man who thinks Humphrey has rabies and being chased by bears who mistake Humphrey’s playful snowball for an attack on their cub.

Tony threatens war unless Kate shows up in time to marry his son and unite the packs. But Kate is not the only one to discover that alphas and omegas can make a good team.

Kate is an appealing heroine, and so it’s a relief to see an all-ages movie that does not require the responsible, capable character to “loosen up” and get in touch with her silly side or the fun-loving character to become serious to find love and happiness. But the script fails to give Kate and Humphrey some other purpose to propel the story forward. Despite a perilous road trip and an imminent feud between wolf factions, we do not see Kate and Humphrey learn or change in any way that seems to matter. The result is a story with all of the dramatic tension of a dial tone.

The movie depends on the difference between the two kinds of wolves, but it is oddly reluctant to decide what that means. The alphas act like, well, alphas: strong, brave, smart and kind of bossy. They are not unkind to the omegas but they are dismissive and condescending. There’s a half-hearted attempt to make the contribution of the omegas appear equivalent because they remind everyone to have fun and “keep the peace.” It seems forced and insincere, especially when the genuine contributions made by Humphrey come from being brave and smart, not funny and playful.

The background animation has some lovely touches but the character design is poor. It’s not accurate enough to make the wolves seem like animals and not expressive enough to make them seem like characters we can care about. The characters’ expressions during vertiginous drops on a hollow log sledding down a mountain are so flat that the 3-D effects just don’t matter.

We’ve been spoiled this year by two top-quality 3-D animated films, “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Despicable Me,” and one that qualifies as a masterpiece, “Toy Story 3.” Those films are the alphas that make this one seem like a Saturday morning cartoon show.

  • Harry

    I thought it was a very good movie. I mostly like the charactors Humphry, Kate, Lily and Tony. Lily is very cute. The biker and librarian couple were a trip. I think some verieity should have been given to the motor vehicles in the movie. The trucks belonging to Jasper Park, the park in Idaho and to the couple were all fashioned after late model Dodge trucks from about 2006 to 2008. Not everyone drives the same make, year and model vehicle. I would have done the locomotive for the train different, although the box cars were OK other than being a bit short in length. The two men, who worked for the truck stop, who thought Humphry was rabid were very well thought out with good charactor development. The 3D was done very good. Two examples were the rocking of the train cars as you sighted down the side of the train. And when Kate and Humphry rode inside the camper, it seemed like you could reach up and pull the suitcase Kate had her paws on. It was a sad moment near the end when it looked as though Kate was going to die from a hoof clop to the head from the caribu stampeede. I liked the movie well enough I went back four days later and saw it a second time(both times in 3D).

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks for a great comment, Harry! I’m glad you liked the film.

  • peter

    I liked it too. The character design was actually spot on and beautiful. Not my favorite, but it satisfies a mood no other movie will. Some scenes I can relate to. Balanced and well crafted, great job crest studios!

  • Sarita

    Well I agree with the reviewer for once. While I may not be in the age range the movie was shooting for, I tend to watch and enjoy a lot of movies targeted for a younger audience. And I always try to respect the work put into animation and focus on the good aspects of a film. However, I could not stop myself from making snide remarks throughout the entire movie. The animation was decent (better than Hoodwinked or Fly Me To The Moon anyway) but the story and even the humor was so forced and flat. I felt like I was watching a story my friends and I would’ve made up when we were 6. I thought the side romance between Lilly and Garth was adorable, but couldn’t get myself to find anything attractive about the other characters. The best part of the movie was the credits, when they showed all of the concept art. That gave me a sliver of respect for the movie, but otherwise it was probably one of the worst animated films I’ve seen this year. Maybe I’m just spoiled by things such as, like the reviewer said, How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 2. :/

  • Nell Minow

    Peter, I’m always glad to hear from someone who sees more in a movie than I do. And Sarita, I’m always glad to hear from someone who agrees with me! Good point about the pleasure of seeing the concept drawings over the closing credits. If only the movie had lived up to them. Thanks to both of you.

Previous Posts

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

How Do Movies Show Time Passing?
Someone once said that movies are "pieces of time." A few take place in "real time." Alfred Hitchcock's experiment, "Rope," unfolds in just the time it takes us to watch it, all in what appears to be one seamless shot. But others take place over days, weeks, years, even generations. Slavko Vorkap

posted 8:00:40am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Boring TV Makes You Fat
A new study finds that boring television leads to mindless snacking and that leads to putting on pounds. So, watch programs that excite and engage you. Or, if the show is boring, turn off the television.

posted 8:00:05am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Switched at Birth and the End of Life
I'm a big fan of ABC Family's Switched at Birth and have appreciated its complicated characters, honest and heartfelt relationships, and compelling storylines, as well as its unprecedented, in-depth portrayal of the deaf community. Last week's episode may have been the all-time best (SPOILER ALERT)

posted 3:59:49pm Jul. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Comic-Con 2014
It's here!  San Diego Comic-Con begins Wednesday night in San Diego and I'll be there.  This is my favorite event of the year, a chance to find out what everyone will be watching, listening to, playing, and otherwise enjoying over the next few years.  As I always say, this is the Iowa caucuses of

posted 8:00:20am Jul. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.