Back in 2006 when Sony Animation released Open Season, the formula of talking animal animated features was pretty sure-fire. Blue Sky was basking in the revenue the Ice Ages were bringing in, DreamWorks had Madagascar (and perhaps even more direct competition Over the Hedge) and even Disney wanted a piece of the pie with The Wild. Sony had a pretty admirable basis with Open Season, however, one that kept it from being lumped with the others in the ideal that a domesticated grizzly bear could lose touch with all sense of instinct before being dumped back into the wild.
Perhaps most impressive is that Open Season represents the first full length animated feature film to come out of Sony Imageworks (a company that would go on to produce many leading titles in the genre).
The story goes a little something like this:
A grizzly bear named Boog (Martin Lawrence), domesticated by a park ranger named Beth (Debra Messing) encounters an overly energetic deer named Elliot (Ashton Kutcher) in need of a hand to escape from the mullet-sporting, flannel wearing hunter, Shaw (Gary Sinise).
Elliot decides to return the favor to help Boog escape from Beth’s humble abode, which leads to a big misunderstanding that convinces Beth that the time to release Boog back to the wild has arrived.
Boog, it turns out, having been raised with humans from cub-hood, has no idea how to survive outside of his cozy garage.
Despite some shaky beginnings, Elliott and Boog end up developing an unlikely bond that becomes extremely crucial in their teaming up with the other wild animals of the forest in attempt to drive out the invading hunters.
I came away pretty impressed from Open Season thanks to pacing that is neither forcefully fast nor too bogged down upon itself and a lenient enough script to allow the actors a chance to really bring some personality to the characters. The story itself is actually quite solid with enough subtle bits and gags to appear humorous to nearly any age group. Sure there’s the requisite slapstick to appeal to the younger demographic but some of the redneck references and pop culture influence will be sure to raise a chuckle out of adults as well.
The visuals were top notch then and are still impressive even today with a lot of deliberate attention to lighting and shadow (especially in the outdoor environments). The featurette concerning the rendering of each character’s digital hair is a welcomed reminder as to just how tedious and time-consuming creating this type of film can really be.
While I was expectedly pleased with Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher’s vocal performances as they two lead characters (Boog and Elliott respectively), special props definitely have to go out to Gary Sinise for his most uncharacteristic portrayal of the hunting-obsessed human Shaw. There’s some genuine humor there that sets the tone for many of the onscreen antics to follow. Finally, the fact that the opening credits roll to Talking Heads’ Wild Wild Life is just precisely the attention to detail here that makes Open Season stick out among a crowded DVD shelf.
In conclusion, it should really come as no surprise to hear that Open Season was successful enough to spawn not one but a pair of sequels (part 3 is nearly complete at the time of this review’s writing). An appropriate cast blended with an interesting story and tight visuals all adds up to a pretty rewarding experience. I’m looking forward to enjoying Open Season 2 next.
What did you think of this review?