There are two writers credited with penning the screenplay to "Strange Wilderness"Fred Wolf (2003's "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star
") and Paul Gaulke (2006's "Ice Age: The Meltdown
")and that is one script I'd love to read. Playing like an impromptu sketch show that has been given the money for exterior sets, the film is a nearly plotless and always asinine stoner comedy that is so inconsequential it begins to evaporate from the memory before it is even over. Hailing from Happy Madison Productions (they of another pot-centric effort, 2006's far better and funnier "Grandma's Boy
"), "Strange Wilderness" is amusing in the same way someone under the influence might be from the point-of-view of a sober party guest: tolerable for a spell and then just plain annoying.
When his father, a beloved television nature host, died, directionless son Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn) decided to take over the duties of his show, titled "Strange Wilderness." Since stepping into the role, however, the series' quality has plummeted and station manager Ed Lawson (Jeff Garlin) is now considering dropping it altogether. When word comes that a rival show has fled into the Andes to locate Bigfoot, Peter and his dippy crewright-hand man Fred Wolf (Allen Covert); guitar-strumming simpleton Cooker (Jonah Hill); eternally high cameraman Junior (Justin Long); animal handler Whitaker (Kevin Heffernan) and travel guide Cheryl (Ashley Scott)make it their mission to capture the sacred footage first and hopefully save the fate of the program.
The ensemble cast that director Fred Wolf has finagled for "Strange Wilderness" would make most esteemed filmmakers jealous, and the only logical reasoning for their participation is the chance to joke and cavort around with friends for a couple months. Save for acting outlandish, silly and/or baked, no onenot lead star Steve Zahn (2005's "Sahara
"), not Jonah Hill (2007's "Superbad
"), not Ashley Scott (2007's "The Kingdom
"), and not Justin Long (2007's "Live Free or Die Hard
")have real characters to work with or arcs to develop. Instead, the lot of 'em run around apparently improvising for 80 minutes, and let's just say that their best material doesn't look to be what has landed in the finished product.
Does the film have any respective pleasures? Well, no, but it would be dishonest to claim that there aren't a few laughs to be had. Though terribly low-brow, one scene where Peter's penis gets stuck in a turkey's throat is something you don't see every day, and the intermittent documentary snippets from the edited show, complete with grossly inaccurate voiceovers about the animals, are a hoot. These latter interludes are so successful that the viewer wishes they would make up the entire movie. When the action is centered around the escapades of the human doofuses, it is an interminable experience.
Chronically juvenile and empty, "Strange Wilderness" sputters along for almost an hour and a half on the fumes of the numerous onscreen bong hits. From a filmmaking standpoint, it is threadbare and uninteresting. Pacing lags because there is no momentum to the paper-thin story, nor anyone to like or care about. The only positive thing to come from the anticlimactic ending is that it is, indeed, the end, the viewer dwelling not on the movie itself but on the time that has been wasted watching it. There is a place for raucous, over-the-top comedy in cinema as long as it's entertaining, and that is where "Strange Wilderness" flunks out. Were this film to disappear into obscurity tomorrow, no one would miss it.