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Open Season: Special Edition

At first, Open Season (2006) feels a lot like a "great outdoors" take on a certain ogre-and-donkey tale. The two main characters are a big guy who's set in his ways (domesticated grizzly bear Boog) and a bouncy, prattling, big-eared sidekick (hyperactive mule deer Elliot) who's determined to become said big guy's new best friend. And while there's no princess to rescue, there is a damsel at the end of their journey (goofy red-headed ranger Beth), as well as plenty of forest to navigate. But before you dismiss Sony Pictures Animation's inaugural feature as a Shrek rip-off (or, for that matter, as just another one of the nonstop parade of "computer-animated animals doing silly things" movies that have flooded theaters in the wake of Pixar's success), stick around until the supporting characters enter the picture. From feisty Scottish squirrel McSquizzy (voiced by Billy Connolly) to a kooky porcupine known only as Porcupine (Matthew W. Taylor), the creatures that Boog (Martin Lawrence) and Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) meet during their time in the wilderness are the best part of the movie. Certainly, the plot isn't anything to write home about: After contentedly civilized Boog helps spring Elliot from the clutches of demented hunter Shaw (Gary Sinise), circumstances conspire to get both bear and deer banished back to the wild. Initially Boog's only thought is to get back home to Ranger Beth (Debra Messing) before open hunting season begins, but ultimately he must decide whether his loyalties lie with Beth or with his new furred and feathered compatriots. Open Season — which was inspired by executive producer Steve Moore's "Far Side"-esque comic "In the Bleachers" — doesn't exactly break any new ground, but it picks up enough once Boog and Elliot are actually in the wild that folks who are just looking for a little light entertainment will probably be amused enough. Sony brings the film to DVD in a lovely anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (French 5.1 and Spanish Surround tracks are also available, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles). Typically for animated films, the disc boasts lots of features, too, though most are pretty lightweight. There's a fairly standard commentary track by producer Michelle Murdocca and directors Jill Culton, Roger Allers, and Anthony Stacchi; three quick commentary snippets by some of the supporting animal characters (as themselves); the original short "Boog and Elliot's Midnight Bun Run"; two featurettes (one is a typical behind-the-scenes affair, the other is about the actors who provided the voices); two deleted scenes in storyboard form; a music video for Deathray's "I Wanna Lose Control (Uh-Oh)"; three "ringtales" (brief animated shorts from the movie's Web site); still galleries; previews (including some additional content for the upcoming movie Surf's Up); DVD-ROM features; a multi-angle feature for the "Swept Away" dam-burst scene; three Easter Eggs; and two other activities. As with most DVD games, neither of these is particularly impressive. "Voice-a-rama" lets you experiment with different character-voice matchups (try McSquizzy as a breathy woman, for example), while "Wheel of Fortune: Forest Edition" is a clunky trivia game based on stills and sound clips from the movie. Keep-case with paperboard slipcase.
—Betsy Bozdech

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