Directed by Steve "Spaz" Williams. Voices by Kiefer Sutherland, Greg Cipes, James Belushi, Janeane Garafalo, Eddie Izzard, William Shatner, Richard Kind. (2006, G, 81 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 14, 2006
It's great fun to hear Shatner, as the voice of the scheming wildebeast Kazar, send up Ricardo Montalban's Khan (right down to the hazy gimlet eye) from Paramount's Star Trek franchise, but it's not enough to hang this entire film upon, itself a pastiche of earlier, more substantial films (both Finding Nemo and Madagascar spring to mind). That this Disney production treads familiar ground is itself no surprise – animated kids films follow a strict template, after all – but what catches you off guard is how little story there appears to be, given that four writers punched in on it. Cipes (who does vocal duties as the Beast Boy of Teen Titans fame) voices Ryan, the unsettled cub of "New York Zoo" lion Samson (Sutherland), who ends up being accidentally shipped to the real jungle for the first time when he falls asleep inside on of the zoo's container crates. It's of course up to Samson (who here might as well be dubbed the "Liar King") to play the noble sire and save his beloved offspring with an able assist from Zoo Yorkers Bridget the giraffe (Garafalo), Nigel the English (!) koala bear (Izzard), and best pal Squirrel (Belushi) from certain doom. The animation is top-notch, and the film sports some of the most realistic and colorful fur, feathers, and hair this side of Fashion Week in Milan. However, The Wild feels as though much of its backstory, along with most of the good jokes, have been cut out along the circuitous path to your neighborhood cineplex, resulting in a finished film that will probably delight the under-10 set, while leaving everyone else marveling at how bored they are. Vocally, the cast is a keeper, with both 24's Sutherland contributing a fine performance as the wayward pop and Cipes, as the little lion who hasn't yet learned to roar (shades of Godzilla's offspring Minya, who, as I'm sure you'll recall, could only blow smoke rings), managing just the right amount of sulky spunk. But beyond that there's little to recommend of The Wild, which, despite its title, is about as pedestrian as you can get.