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Ordinary animals

Movies | Open Season recycles ideas that weren't good the first time

Issue: "Can't run or hide," Oct. 14, 2006

Computer-animated cartoons have been nearly fail-proof at the box office. So studios are eager to throw their hats in the ring, and now Sony does so with the release of Open Season (rated PG for some rude humor, mild action, and brief language).

Sony took the right steps: Sony Pictures Animation grew out of Sony Pictures Imageworks, which did award-winning visual effects on Spider Man, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Superman Returns, and won an Oscar for the short animated film The ChubbChubbs! For Open Season Sony hired co-directors with an illustrious combined resumé that includes work on The Lion King, Monsters, Inc., and Toy Story 1 and 2.

Sadly, Sony ends up with something completely ordinary. Sassy talking animals in unfamiliar surroundings? A ferocious carnivore who can't hunt in the wild? Forest beasts battling humans? An over-reliance on bathroom jokes? Did no one at Sony see The Wild, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, or Ice Age 2? Or, more likely, does no one at Sony care that they're simply recycling ideas that were sub-par to begin with?

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In Open Season, Martin Lawrence voices Boog, a domesticated grizzly bear who lives with forest ranger Beth (Debra Messing). Life is great until a mule deer named Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) arrives on the scene; the ensuing havoc lands Boog in the woods a few days before hunting season.

The dish-fed Boog has no idea how to survive in the wild, but his resolve is steeled when he and his new friends are threatened by bloodthirsty hunters. Boog stages a revolt, building up an army to take on the hunters and protect the forest. In another sign of just how predictable this film is, the only positive human characters are the female forest ranger and a Native American policeman.

There are scattered moments of cleverness and humor in Open Season, and the voice talent does fine. But there are far better options for children's entertainment than repetitive story lines, lowbrow humor, and political correctness.

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