Open Season

on September 29, 2006 by Kim Williamson
First: If you're going to see "Open Season," and there's an IMAX screen near you that has booked the title, then that's the venue at which to see this film. Not only does the giant size of the screen help pull audiences in to this relatively slight tale, but also IMAX's DMR process renders crisp, immersive and even astonishing 3D images that aren't to be missed -- a chaotic romp in a minimart and a dam-busted flood across the countryside being highlights.

Second: "Open Season" is another in the cute-animals-doing-cute-and-rascally routine that is a constant of contemporary animation. This film, which began with the musings of syndicated cartoonist Steve Moore about the fates of “citified” animals that were taken to the wilds, has the routine down pretty well. However, the range of characterization and emotion is less than that of the superior "Over the Hedge." ("Open Season" is sort of "Over the Hedge" done inside out.) Perhaps animators would be better served by returning to storylines like those found in such Disney classics as "Pocahontas" and "Mulan," wherein the cute creatures -- like Meeko and Mushu -- provide the comic relief, and the main story is a drama about humans; comic relief as the central characterizations goes only so far, even when clearly anthropomorphic.

Third: Within its limitations, "Open Season" could hardly be better, generating real interest and audience sympathy. And the storyline carries built-in intrigue: A big bear named Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence), who was found as a cub and given a home in her garage by Beth (Debra Messing), a forest ranger, one fateful night is fed candy by wild mule deer Elliott (Ashton Kutcher). On a sugar rush, Boog and Elliott have a crazed frolic in an after-hours minimart, leading Beth to transport Boog into the mountains, where he can live in the wild. The rest of the story, interrupted on occasion by a malevolent hunter (Gary Sinise), is of Boog's effort to return to the life he knew below. Although none of the voicings are standouts, the character of Beth, despite being given less screen time than the two animals, certainly is. A sort of adult version of "Toy Story 2's" Jessie, Beth has a depth and warmth that give full explanation to Boog's continuing search for home. Voiced by Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Gary Sinise, Billy Connolly and Jon Favreau. Directed by Jill Culton and Roger Allers. Written bySteve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman, Nat Maludin. Produced by Michelle Murdocca. A Columbia release. Animated. Rated PG for some rude humor, mild action and brief language. Running time: 100 min..

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