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Review: Open Season

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Among animated movies, Open Season manages to stand out; delivering substance as well as style. Read on:

Recently, we expressed gratitude over the fact that computer-animated movies have become so ubiquitous and unspecial that they are no longer “event” movies, but rather generic family films that will soon disappear like the majority of their hand-drawn predecessors. This feeling disappeared, however, when we realized we would still have to see and review them in their increasingly lackluster glory. Open Season, featuring the voice talents of Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence, is the most recent of these efforts.

Thankfully, generic and unspecial have long since become de rigeur for studios in search of maximum profits at minimum risk; as such, those terms now more often represent a simple and resolutely “safe” adventure that will sustain preadolescent attention spans for 100 or so minutes at a time — which ultimately is a role that Open Season fills quite nicely.

Lawrence and Kutcher play Boog and Elliot, a bear and a mule deer, respectively, who find themselves unlikely partners when Boog’s human owner Beth (Debra Messing) reluctantly agrees to return her charge to the wild. While attempting to return to civilization, the two soon encounter a cross-section of crazy animals, including an irascible squirrel named McSquizzy (Billy Connolly), a tough-talking beaver named Reilly (Jon Favreau) and Ian (Patrick Warburton), Elliot’s rival for doe Giselle (Jane Krakowski). But before they can make proper friends with this veritable wildlife preserve, they discover more profound danger in the form of human hunters — one of whom, named Shaw (Gary Sinise), has specific designs on seeing the dynamic duo stuffed and mounted on his wall.

If there’s an immediate feeling of familiarity to this story, it’s because you’ve definitely seen it before; Madagascar and The Wild, to name but two recent examples, also followed this same fish-out-of-water formula. As such, the real question becomes not what story they are telling, but how they tell it, and directors Roger Allers, Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi do their best to breathe new life into the material without going straight for the to-the-minute pop culture references or even the sappy, indulgent melodrama that lesser filmmakers turn to as a catch-all for imminent cheesiness.

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