Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bewildering Strangeness

Strange Wilderness

Release: 02/01/2008
Rated R
1 hour, 27 minutes

Second-Run Seats ($$)

One of my favorite under-appreciated actors, Steve Zahn (Saving Silverman), stars as Peter Gaulke, host of a late-night TV wildlife program "Strange Wilderness." Under Peter's lead, the once-great show pioneered by his dad is in danger of being canceled. Fortunately, his dad's old coworker, Bill Calhoun, played by Joe Don Baker (Mars Attacks!), offers Peter access to a map that reveals the location of Bigfoot's secret South American lair. With only a few pennies to their names, Peter and his stoner crew set off to rescue the show that keeps them all moderately paid and semi-stocked in weed.

Costarring alongside Zahn is a slew of familiar goofball-comedy faces. Sandler mainstays Allen Covert and Peter Dante of Grandma's Boy fame play the sound guy Fred Wolf and driver Danny, respectively. These guys suckered Apatow's pal Jonah Hill (Accepted) into playing a gofer named Cooker. Hill in turn hustled Justin Long (Waiting...) into playing stoner camera guy Junior. I'm not sure how he fits ino the six degrees of separation, but Broken Lizard's Kevin Heffernan joined the crew as Whitaker, an alcoholic animal handler. The general idea is a lot of funny people called in a lot of favors from a lot of other funny people to make something that is, ultimately, surprisingly unfunny and tedious.

I am being a bit harsh. Zahn worked amazingly hard, as did Covert, Long, et al., for a film that attains humor sporadically. When they strike that golden note it rings true, but the gags mostly fall flat. The most hilarious moments are Zahn's voiceovers for ancient
Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom footage. This style of comedy would work better as a mockumentary reality series a la Reno 911!. To sum it up, there's a scene where Zahn criticizes his script because it was written on a cocktail napkin by the drunk and stoned crew the night before. I think the film's writers, Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf (yes, they borrowed their own names for the lead roles), did indeed pen their script in much the same fashion. Entire sequences seem altered mid-film as if the writers were making it up as they went along, and everyone involved was too high to care.

Not that you care to know, but the scenery, when not 70's animal footage, is comprised of roadside petting zoo-quality faux jungle. Also, the elusive Bigfoot looks like a well-worn left over from
Harry and the Hendersons. But don't let the noticeable zipper bother you because the ludicrous 'Foot results in the funniest of the non-voiceover moments.

Dirty Undies
In case you weren't sure, there are scenes of drug use. There are also a couple of cock-and-balls jokes with prosthetics used nicely for gross-out effect. The language is foul and crude so that's a plus. I give a big thumbs up to Justin Long for being the most insanely funny of the ensemble. Conversely, Jonah Hill deserves the nod of shame and a resounding WTF?! He whips out this weird southern-esque accent that is completely unnecessary and totally unfunny. I assume he's trying to apply the Ben Stiller shtick to his comedy and it so did not work.

The Money Shot

I went into Strange Wilderness with high hopes. I left Strange Wilderness wishing these people hadn't been so fucking high. I laughed, but not nearly as much as I could have given the caliber of the comedic talent assembled. If you do see this, I suggest employing Smokey's pre-community service lifestyle:

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. Bah - sad to read this. Though now, maybe my hopes will be twice as low and I'll enjoy it four times as much as you did. Or something like that.

    Regardless, even though I haven't seen it, I get the feeling this is the kind of flick that will get better with multiple

  2. I hope you can enjoy it more than me.

    Yes I can definitely see it improve with viewings, I mean it couldn't get any worse. I bet there'll be some "Untamed & Unrated" DVD version that releases with a few more redeemable moments that'll help it too.

  3. Wayne... I don't know what to tell you. You were totally wrong on this! We...

    ...walked out. This was worse than Epic Movie, which was one of the worst movies I've seen in a theater. This made that look awesome by comparison. I think it's the first time I've walked out on a movie.


  4. Ouch! Walked out!? Just curious, at what moment did you walk out?

    I have never walked out or turned off a movie. Guess that says a lot about the strength of my addiction. There have been movies I wanted to, even yearned to but I suffered to the end.

  5. I didn't walk out, but a piece of me wishes I did...

  6. Hmm, I've been thinking, my wife and our 18-yr old nephew (who rarely goes to theaters) went with me. Maybe his laughter at the inanity of it all softened it for us.