[box cover]

The Wild

With The Little Mermaid in 1988, the Walt Disney Company re-established itself as the pre-eminent producer of classic animated feature films, following up that family favorite with the sublime Beauty and the Beast and the blockbuster hits Aladdin and The Lion King. Their release of the Pixar-produced Toy Story in 1995, however, changed everything. Not only did the brilliant Toy Story start a revolution of computer animation over classically painted cells, it also effectively ended the resurgence of Disney's in-house animation, and the Mouse House has since struggled to release a new notable animated feature without Pixar's label attached. As Pixar and Disney struggled to settle their relationship — eventually resulting in a Disney buy-out of their top producer — the Mouse House turned to C.O.R.E., a production house and special effects studio best known for unremarkable genre films (Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) and television shows (John Woo's "Once a Thief"), to put together a major animated feature for 2006. The result was C.O.R.E.'s first animated effort, The Wild, about escaped animals from New York City's Central Park Zoo who find themselves struggling to adapt to the African jungle. Popular lion Samson (Kiefer Sutherland) leads a goofy rescue mission to track down his runaway son Ryan (Greg Cipes), who is shipped back to a volcanic African island ruled by a cult of Wildebeests intent on replacing lions as the land's dominant carnivores. The Wild not only bombed at the box office, but it was heavily criticized for its many similarities to DreamWorks Madagascar (2005). Some of the animation is impressive, but Pixar's string of successes has set such a high standard for animated narratives that The Wild's preference for manic goofiness over character development and organic comedy and drama makes its 76 minutes of colorful chaos a bit of a bore. Fans of Sutherland may find slight enjoyment catching flashes of his TV alter-ego Jack Bauer ("24") in Samson, and the wildebeest subplot is clever, but many of the supporting characters are ultimately irrelevant, and the central father-son relationship is so stiff and trite that the movie never finds its roar. Also with voices by James Belushi, Eddie Izzard, Janeane Garofalo, William Shatner, Patrick Warburton, and, briefly, Men at Work's Colin Hay. Directed by Steve 'Spaz' Williams. Buena Vista presents The Wild in a good anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a few minutes of not fully-rendered deleted scenes with optional commentary by Williams, three minutes of Eddie Izzard's vocal improvs, a brief look at animator Colin Cunningham (who also provided a character voice), plus a music video for Everlife's lifeless cover of "Real Wild Child." Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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