In a cross between Finding Nemo and Madagascar, with a little Lion King thrown in for good measure, Disney"s The Wild is just plain old tired derivativeness. Maybe we should chalk this one up to bad timing.
Like Madagascar, the story starts at the New York Zoo. Samson (Kiefer Sutherland) the lion, is once again the star of the show, but unlike Madagascar"s Alex, Samson claims he came from the wild. He regales the other odd assortment of zoo denizens--including a talkative giraffe (Janeane Garofalo), a lisping anaconda (Richard Kind), a snarky Koala (Eddie Izzard) and a take-charge squirrel (Jim Belushi)--with tales of danger and excitement abroad. Of course, Samson can"t tell the real truth, that he was actually born in captivity and is making it all up, because everyone, including his rebellious teenage son, Ryan (Greg Cipes), would think less of him. But when Ryan runs away, thinking he can"t live up to his dad"s reputation, and is mistakenly shipped off to the wild, Samson has keep up the charade as the gang embarks on a dangerous mission to rescue him. The lion does come clean at some point, in case you were wondering.
Another vocal roster of big names, another dollar. This time around we"ve got Sutherland, Garofalo, Belushi, all doing the animal thing. There"s also William Shatner, as a villainous wildebeest headed for the loony bin after deciding he"s tired of being the prey and turns predator. He"s even got his herd of wildebeest dancing a Busby Berkeley number around a volcano, á la Lion King. Sigh. Luckily, there is one saving grace--sort of: Izzard as the wisecracking Koala bear Nigel, who gets mistaken for a god by the wildebeest and milks it for all its worth, which isn"t a whole lot. Still, if anyone has seen the British comedian"s hilarious HBO special Eddie Izzard: Dressed to Kill, you can just imagine him strutting around as a Koala, dressed in women"s clothing and doing his shtick.
The Mouse House once again proves it doesn"t have an inventive bone in its body--or even the gumption to realize that had something with potential. Apparently, the pitch, from writers Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin, had been mulling around Disney for about nine years before it got made, giving the likes of Nemo and Madagascar a head start (I"d be peeved if I were those writers). But even if The Wild did come first, it still wouldn"t be able to measure up, mostly because the story is insipid. Wildebeest turning into predators? What"s THAT all about? The CGI-animation is spot on, of course, but we are definitely taking all of that for granted these days. No, now what we want is a good compelling story. If not that, then at least we should have a couple of really funny characters--like commando penguins or a fish with short-term memory--to help things move along. The Wild doesn"t have either, so while children may be left mildly entertained for an hour and a half, parents will be left twiddling their thumbs, waiting for it to be over.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.