Open Season

Open Season


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What is it about animals these days? The urban ones don't want to go back into the jungle (Madagascar, The Wild) and the indigenous ones don't like suburbia infringing on their lives (Over The Hedge). Now there is a grizzly bear, called Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence), who lives in a game warden's garage, and three days before open season, when hunters buy permits to kill anything that moves, is taken by helicopter to the top of a mountain and left to fend for himself. Is he happy? No, siree!

As is often the case with second division Hollywood animation, there has to be a moral and there has to be a message and there have to be tears. These clog up the story. The moral/message is friendship, loyalty, be true to those around you and be a good citizen/animal/bear/deer/whatever. At the start, Boog is a spoilt Mummy's bear - OK, Mummy is called Beth (Debra Messing) and she's a wo-man, although she wears man shorts and a man hat - only thinking about himself and the next treaty snack. He performs for Mummy Beth when she puts on a show for the tourists who come to the National Park, where they live and work. Boog does a unicycle act on stage and wows the crowds. He likes the adulation.

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One day, the meanest, wildest, nastiest lookin', red neck, hunter killer, called Shaw (Gary Sinise), roars into town in his battered, rattly, mud-splashed pick-up truck, with a deer strapped to its bonnet. He ran the critter down on the highway, he says, laughing like a coyote drowning in sewage. Mummy Beth and Boog hear this and want to spit, but she's a lady and he's not, so they don't, but Boog notices that the deer isn't exactly ready to be mounted on Shaw's wall with the other stuffed animals, because it's still alive, and so slashes the rope and the deer, called Elliot (Ashton Kutcher), escapes and won't ever forget that Boog saved his life and, therefore, becomes his biggest, bestest buddy in the whole, wild-out-there world.

When Boog is taken back to where he belongs - the mountain top, rather than the cosy garage - Elliot goes too and Elliot is a pain in the backside, annoying Boog with his needy demands of everlasting friendship. Boog is also annoying, but for a different reason. He's selfish and lazy and all he wants to do is go home to Mummy Beth and forget all this nature-is-good-for-you rubbish. Of course, Boog and Elliot meet the mountain crew (porcupine, deer, skunk, duck, squirrel, etc) and are given a hard time at first, before the season opens and men-with-guns come a-huntin', when they gang up together to fight them off.

The script lacks any kind of wit and the plot is so careful not to dilute the treacly sentiment that it's not exciting. Shaw is so far over the top, he's an idiot rather than scary. Only the bad tempered chief squirrel McSquizzy (created especially for Billy Connolly, surely) has any funny lines. Like so many more famous animated bears, Boog is a bit thick and a big softie. Elliot's like a bee, buzzing round your face when you want to take a nap. It makes you want to spend time with Beth, except she's probably too earnest to leave the paperwork until morning.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2006
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Open Season packshot
A tame animated bear is returned to the mountaintop in time for the hunting season, with a neurotic deer who wants to be his friend.
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Director: Roger Allers, Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi

Writer: Steve Bencich, Ron J Friedman

Starring: voices of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Gary Sinise, Jon Favreau, Billy Connolly, Jane Krakowski, Gordon Tootoosis, Cody Cameron

Year: 2006

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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If you like this, try:

Over The Hedge