Toy Story was the first computer animated film released in theaters over fifteen years ago and as amazing as that film looked, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the years making CGI films look better and better. So why does Alpha and Omega look so amateurish compared to what came over a decade before it?
Alpha is the story of a wolf pack, specifically Humphrey (Justin Long) one of the omega males (or losers) of the pack and Kate (Hayden Panettiere) the alpha female of the pack. Humphrey and Kate were buddies when they were cubs, but as adults they’re not really supposed to mingle all that much. This pack, led by Winston (Danny Glover), is at odds with a nearby pack, led by Tony (Dennis Hopper in his last role), over land and access to the caribou. Kate is supposed to marry Tony’s son, Garth in order to unit the packs. Things get interrupted when Humphrey and Kate are captured and brought to another forest to repopulate. With the help of two golf playing birds, the two wolves must make their way back home before the two packs go to war.
The plot is very bland and uninspired. You know from minute one exactly what’s going to happen and how it’s going to end. You know Kate and Humphrey, despite the pack laws, will end up together and when Garth starts hanging out with Kate’s sister, Lilly (Christina Ricci) you know how that’s going to end as well.
There is no tension or drama in this film at all. One might try to argue, “well, it’s a kids movie!” But Pixar has proven time and time again that you don’t need to dumb down your film for kids. They continually create high quality complex characters and stories that kids can get and adults can equally enjoy. So there really is no excuse for making a cartoon like this anymore.
The design of the wolves is seriously lacking. The artists have given the wolves manes of hair, that look more like human hair, so that each wolf can have a distinct look. It makes sense why they chose to do this, but it just doesn’t work. Also, when the wolves go to howl at the moon, instead of sounding like animals, they really just sounds like the actors going “ooh” and “ahh” and it turns into some lame sounding R&B song. It’s really, really bad. (If you’re a fan of Mr. Show think Three Times One Minus One bad, but not even remotely funny.)
Even when the main characters are bland and uninspired, an animated film usually has a plucky sidekick or two to keep things lively, however Alpha fails on this level too. The sidekicks here are a golf playing French Canadian Goose and his caddy, a Duck. They provide no extra laughs to this already dull film and seem to come and go throughout the story and the writers needed them. Memorable sidekick characters can be an important part of the animated film, however you’ll have forgotten these characters before you have the DVD back in it’s case.
Foreshadowing is a very common technique used in films. In the beginning of the film Humphrey and his omega pals playfully use an old log to slide down the hill. This technique comes back into play not once, but twice later in the film as means of Humphrey helping to save the day. The first time it happens you think, “Oh, okay, like from the beginning of the film.” However the second time you’ll just roll your eyes and think, “Really? Again?”
Alpha and Omega is easily the blandest snoozefest of a film I’ve seen in quite some time. Justin Long can be pretty funny on occasion, but nothing he does here can save this film from being an utter wasted of 78 minutes (87 if you add the credits). In 1981 producer Richard Rich directed The Fox and the Hound for Disney. How he went from that to this is beyond my comprehension.
Alpha and Omega is presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 and Dolby Digital DTS-HD Master Audio and 5.1 surround. I wasn’t a fan of the animation in this film but it did look pretty good on Blu-ray. Specifically the backgrounds looked really good.
Making Of: (21 min.) Pretty typical making-of that covers the creation of the characters, the animation style for the film and the voice acting. The best thing about this is the short interview with Dennis Hopper. Not that it’s that impressive in of itself, but it might be the last thing he filmed before passing.
Wolves In The Wild: (13 min.) A cute little documentary about wolves geared towards the kids.
Deleted Scene: (1 min.) With such a short running time there was really no reason to leave this out, it isn’t any worse or better than anything else in the film.
Animal Fun Facts: Lets you learn while you watch the film.
Log Sliding Game: Choose one of three paths to slide down the hill and catch the caribou. This provides minutes of entertainment.
Are You An Alpha Or An Omega? A personality quiz to find out which type you are.
DVD/Digital Copy of the film.
I think the only reason someone might want to see this film is because they’re a huge Dennis Hopper fan and this was his last film. That is about all it has going for it. At most the film tries to be some sort of commentary on the class system however so little time is spent on this theme that it gets lost in the doldrums that is the rest of the film. If you’re kid is bugging you to see a new cartoon do them and yourself a favor and rent something else.
Lionsgate presents Alpha and Omega. Directed by Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck. Written by Christopher Denk and Steve Moore. Starring: Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper and Christina Ricci. Running time: 87 minutes. Rated PG for rude humor and some mild action. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: January 11, 2011.
Tags: Alpha and Omega, Christina Ricci, Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper, Hayden Panettiere, Justin Long