A wilderness show TV crew is dumber than the animals

Strange Wilderness

on February 02, 2008 by Amy Nicholson

This failure makes it clear: Stoner comedies aren't written for stoners, but by them. Consider Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf's 95 percent unfunny comedy Anchorman Hosts Animal Planet. Only with all the jokes, uh, blunted. As in Gaulke and Wolf must have been hit on the head with a skillet to think they were hilarious.

Steve Zahn, looking like a 12-year-old who started smoking Marlboros in the womb, stars as ... Peter Gaulke (ok, that's mildly amusing), the host of his dead dad's nature show whose ratings need resuscitation. Along with his sound man (wait for it) Fred Wolf (Allen Covert), he sets off to find Bigfoot in Ecuador, packing up the RV with plenty of weed and their ragtag crew of Jonah Hill with a "wacky!" accent that ranges from New York Jew to Panhandle Okie; Justin Long wearing a hirsute style that makes him look like a Jesus catfish; an alcoholic animal wrangler seeking salvation (Kevin Heffernan); and the token hot chick love interest (a sincere Ashley Scott) who wears a shirt decorated in red hearts for the easily confused. Ernest Borgnine—improbably enough—holds the camera until his character finds an excuse to bow out 10 minutes in.

They're all stoners and drunks, so instead of the clarity of character found in a Seth Rogen or Will Ferrell flick, the only effort at defining personalities comes when the gang greets a boa constrictor. Says Hill, "Fuck you, dude!" Says Long, "Oh shit! A porcupine!"

We know their mission's headed for disaster even without the flash-forward framing device of Gaulke slumped over a bong on his couch. They're up against their own stupidity and rival animal show host Harry Hamlin, who's trying to steal the gang's time slot. (Though in defense of Hamlin, Zahn's already stolen his 1980s haircut.) As the aggrieved station owner, Jeff Garlin can't even manage career-threatening anger; his mind's clearly at the craft-service table. All the jokes are either explained—as if we didn't get that Zahn was using the TV remote as a calculator until someone said so—or milked for every gross-out gag: When Zahn's man bits get gobbled by a turkey, we get a panicked dance, an X-ray, a close-up, a bit where it stretches like gum and an opening for yuks about masturbation, homophobia, erections and water sports.

The only half-decent bits come from the brain-scrambling voiceover wisdom slapped on grisly Super 8 footage of animals frolicking or tearing each other to bits.

On bears: "Bears derive their name from a football team in Chicago."

On sharks: "The assholes of the sea."

On monkeys: "Monkeys make up 80 percent of the world's monkey population."

At least Gaulke and Wolf didn't have to go far to kill their reputation: During the jungle piranha attack scene, a mallard floats by in the background. Defenders—really high degenerates who laugh at Cheetos bags—may sneer that I'm just not the target audience. But my friend, an adventure show cameraman with a taste for the green stuff, is. His verdict: "Man, that sucked, dude."

Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Steve Zahn, Allen Covert, Jonah Hill and Justin Long
Director: Fred Wolf
Screenwriters: Peter Gaulke & Fred Wolf
Producer: Peter Gaulke
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for non-stop language, drug use, crude and sexual humor
Running time: 87 min.
Release date: February 1, 2008

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