The Wild Review
By Shawn McKenzie 04/17/2006
Virtually every other review of Disney’s The Wild has compared this movie to last year’s Madagascar and 2003’s Finding Nemo…and this one will be no different. Re-treading those movies would be okay, if it were for the fact that the writing in this one isn’t as good.
New York City Zoo lion Samson (voice of Kiefer Sutherland), who is billed as “Sampson the Wild,” likes to tell many tales to his son Ryan (voice of Greg Cipes) about his time in the wild. Each tale is taller than the next…including a four-horned wildebeest who looked like a metal robot. While he admires his dad, Ryan would like his roar to be as ferocious as the mighty roar of his old man. Unfortunately, his roar sounds like a cute little kitty, and it elicits laughter from the other animals and even young human kids who are watching him in the zoo. His friends, Duke (voice of Miles Marsico), a hippo, and Eze (voice of Jack De Sena), a kangaroo, tells Ryan about the “green boxes” just outside the zoo and thinks that he might want to escape inside one of them someday and take a trip to this “wild” that his dad keeps prattling on about. One night, after the park closes, Ryan promises Samson that he will be there to see his dad participate in a game of turtle curling against a penguin team (who aren’t nearly as memorable as the ones in Madagascar.) Samson’s team consists of his closest zoo friends. Benny (voice of James Belushi) is a squirrel who’s Sampson’s best friend; Bridget (voice of Janeane Garofalo) is a giraffe whom Benny is in love with; Larry (voice of Richard Kind) is a slow-witted Anaconda snake; and Nigel (voice of Eddie Izzard) is a koala bear who hates his merchandising likeness (the talking plush doll says, “I’m so cuddly…I like you!”) Ryan accidentally makes some gazelles start stampeding during the game, and Samson chews him out for it. Ryan decides to sneak out of the zoo and curl up in one of the green boxes. He falls asleep and is trapped inside when the doors are closed and the cart is carried away. He cries for help, but Samson can’t do anything about it at the moment. Based on information told to Benny by a penguin named Hamir (voice of Christian Argueta and David Cowgill) and some pigeons, Samson forms a plans to sneak out of the zoo and seek out the torch-carrying lady wearing a crown of thorns (a.k.a. the Statue of Liberty.) Originally he intended to mount this rescue mission with just Benny (since the squirrel knows the streets), but the rest of his friends have secretly joined him for the ride in a garbage truck that Samson and Benny stowed away in. Benny is accidentally knocked out of the truck by Bridget’s tail, and the rest have to use their animal instincts to survive. At one point, they are cornered by a pack of wild dogs, including a very vicious poodle. Samson’s friends are a little confused why this jungle lion won’t fight back. The truth is that he was born a circus lion, so he’s never seen the wild. They manage to get away from the dogs and go through the New York sewer system, where they meet Stan (voice of Joseph Siravo) and Carmine (voice of Lenny Venito), a couple of crocodiles who had been flushed down the toilet when they were babies. The crocs lead them to the port filled with carts heading for Ellis Island and then onto Africa. The cart containing Ryan is accidentally put on a cargo ship (all of these “accidents” sound like a typical episode of FOX’s “24”…no wonder Kiefer “Jack Bauer” Sutherland is in it) and the zoo friends commandeer a tugboat to chase it. Benny catches up with his friends on the back of a Canadian goose, and they follow the cargo ship to an African shore. Samson’s friends still believe that he is familiar with the wild, but when he refuses to eat a nervous hyrax (voice of Colin Cunningham), they realize that he was never from the wild. Samson orders them to go back to the boat while he looks for Ryan. Nigel then disappears and is carried off by a pack of wildebeests, where he is treated like a God (they call him “The Great Him.”) Another pack of wildebeests…led by Blag (voice of Patrick Warburton)…knock Benny unconscious and take Bridget and Larry hostage. Back in the wildebeest cave, Kazar (voice of William Shatner), the leader of the dancing wildebeests, have decided they should get off the bottom of the food chain by becoming carnivores…and they think that if they can find a couple of lions, they can accomplish their goal. Meanwhile, two vultures, Scab (voice of Jonathan Kimmel) and Scraw (voice of Eddie Gossling), find Ryan and tell Kazar about him. Samson and his friends try to find and rescue Ryan before it’s too late.
If you have seen both Madagascar and Finding Nemo, you will find the obvious comparisons. The New York Zoo animal friends from Madagascar attempt to rescue one of their other friends, and they end up in the Madagascar jungle. The New York Zoo animal friends from The Wild attempt to rescue the son of one of their other friends, and they end up in an unidentified African jungle. The father fish from Nemo mounts a rescue to find his son. Can you see the reason for the déjà vu?
According to my research, the movie was in production a decade ago, well before Madagascar was first developed. Dreamworks, the studio behind Madagascar, rushed it into production first…and this isn’t the first time that the studio has done this to trump Disney. In 1998, Disney/Pixar had developed A Bug’s Life first, but Dreamworks’ similarly bug-themed computer-animated movie Antz made it into theaters first. Disney/Pixar got their revenge by developing and releasing their far superior Nemo in 2003 before Dreamworks’ fish effort Shark Tale in 2004. This little rivalry can get a little tiring for movie fans though.
Let’s compare the pluses and minuses of The Wild vs. Madagascar. The plus The Wild has over Madagascar is that it is visually more appealing. The specs are more realistic and lifelike, whereas Madagascar was more cartoonish. The minus The Wild has over Madagascar is that it had nine writers, whereas Madagascar had only four. You’ve heard the saying about too many cooks spoiling the broth…well…while the movie had many funny moments (Izzard reportedly ad-libbed many of his own lines), it wasn’t nearly as funny as Madagascar (who could forget the penguins who hijacked the cargo ship?)
The Wild was produced by C.O.R.E. Feature Animation and is the directorial debut for visual effects veteran Steve “Spaz” Williams. This might explain why visually the movie is more impressive. It may seem like I’m trashing the film, which I’m not. I thought it was very entertaining, and kids will love it. If you want to save some money though, you may want to just rent both Madagascar and Finding Nemo…because you will probably get the same enjoyment for half the price (maybe you’ll get some better enjoyment, since both of those films are better written.)
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