After months of dreary, brain-addled kiddie flicks, finally one that makes you laugh.
Open Season follows a few different tired and true scenarios. There"s the fish-out-of-water setup: A 900-pound tamed grizzly bear named Boog (Martin Lawrence) is inadvertently released back into the wildand has no idea how to wing it. See, he was living a pleasant domesticated life with Ranger Beth (Debra Messing), who rescued him as cub. But when he meets Elliot (Ashton Kutcher), a wild mule deer with one antler, and helps him escape off the hood of a truck belonging to the very evil hunter Shaw (Gary Sinise), one thing leads to another, and Boog finds himself stranded in the woods right at the beginning of hunting season, with an annoying Elliot by his side. The other woodland creatures aren"t much help either. Then suddenly Open Season turns into an us-against-them situation, as a group of the potentially hunted, led by Boog and Elliot, decide to unite and fight back. It all gels rather hilariously.
Like Laurel and Hardy, Boog and Elliot are the classic big guy/little guy comedy duo. Works every time, and Lawrence and Kutcher yuck it up with the best of them. Sinise"s voice is somewhat unrecognizable as the rotten-to-the-core Shaw, while Messing is her kooky self as the do-gooder park ranger. Even Georgia Engel--sweet Georgette from The Mary Tyler Moore Show--lends her distinctive voice as a talkative camper. But what really makes Open Season zing is all the idiosyncratic side characters: Scottish squirrel McSquizzy (Billy Connolly), who gets all Braveheart on those he doesn"t like; a New Jersey-type construction beaver named Reilly (Jon Favreau); Buck Ian (Patrick Warburton), the arrogant leader of the deer herd; sassy Latina skunks (Michelle Murdocca and Nika Futterman); a sad but creepy porcupine (Matt Taylor); and a duck (Danny Mann) suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Then there are the rabbits, a panicky bunch who never say anything but are always around, by the thousands. They stick to things too, if you throw them.
Out of the glut of CGI-animated comedies this year, Over the Hedge and Open Season are the true stand outs. Why? Maybe it"s because they are both created by comic-strip cartoonists (Over the Hedge is based on the comic strip by Michael Fry and T. Lewis), who, by the very nature of their jobs, have a certain wry outlook on life. Cartoonist Steve Moore (of In the Bleachers fame) thought of Open Season after reading stories about domesticated animals living in mountain communities who eventually outstay their welcome and are sent out into the wilderness. How would they survive? According to Open Season, not very well. Obviously, incorporating creative forces from outside the box gives Open Season a refreshing, comical edge. It"s still hard to top the reigning kings Pixar and DreamWorks, but the new kids on the block, Sony Pictures Animation, whose only other credit so far is Monster House (another standout for the year), are showing some mettle.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.