Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
Steve Zahn ………. Peter Gaulke
Allen Covert ………. Fred Wolf
Jonah Hill ………. Cooker
Kevin Heffernan ………. Whitaker
Ashley Scott ………. Cheryl
Peter Dante ………. Danny Guiterrez
Harry Hamlin ………. Sky Pierson
Robert Patrick ………. Gus Hayden
Joe Don Baker ………. Bill Calhoun
Blake Clark ………. Dick
Justin Long ………. Junior
Jeff Garlin ………. Ed Lawson
Ernest Borgnine ………. Milas
There are four main groups of comedians working together in Hollywood today.: The Frat Pack (Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Owen & Luke Wilson, et al), Broken Lizard (the guys behind Super Troopers, Beerfest, et al), the Judd Apatow regulars (Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, et al) and the Happy Madison crew (Adam Sandler and his assorted friends). Much like superhero teams, it’s always interesting to wonder what it would be like to get the best of the individual groups together for some shenanigans. What one usually doesn’t wonder, though, is what it would be like to get the second tier group of guys together from these groups for an ensemble comedy. Fred Wolf did, though, and the result is Strange Wilderness, an ad-hoc comedy featuring secondary players from all four groups coupled together with the ageless wonder Ernest Borgnine.
Peter (Steve Zahn) is the host of a long running cable television show that shares the same name as the film. Having inherited the show from his father, Peter and his misfit friends spread incorrect facts about animals on a low rated nature show. When threatened with cancellation, Peter and his gang of hooligans come up with one last scheme to keep themselves on the air: find Bigfoot. Given a map by an old friend of his father, the crew gets in an RV and proceeds to head down to South America to find him.
And on paper it looks like the making of a brilliant comedy. You have plenty of talented people from respected groups of comedians coming together in the sort of ensemble comedy that made Anchorman a hit. And the cast works well together, too, as being a secondary player to a bigger star usually gives an actor the ability to play off of others effectively as opposed to being the featured player. The concept is golden, too, as spoofing the sort of nature shows airing early in the morning with a bunch of marijuana enthusiasts is markedly funny to begin with. The film’s execution is lacking in that the comedy is few and far between.
The problem is that the film cobbles enough unfunny jokes into the proceeds that the film’s truly hilarious moments are a bit subdued because they’re surrounded by some particularly unfunny moments. The film’s best gag in particular, involving Bigfoot, has two markedly unfunny jokes book-ending it. It’s not for a lack of effort, though. The cast is game to make the comedy work throughout, as there’s a high level of energy usually seen in a higher level screwball comedy. The film’s heart, which is endearing as the characters are drawn well enough to sympathize with, is obscured by the film’s lack of a comedic calling card. With a lot of good jokes, Strange Wilderness had the potential to be one of the year’s best comedies. As it stands, the film rates as a miss.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):