Paramount // 2008 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 20th, 2008
They could solve nature's biggest mystery if they only had a clue.
Sophomoric, gross, infantile, stupid -- fricking funny?!?
Steve Zahn (Sahara) stars as Peter Gaulke, a host of a failing wildlife show that he inherited from his more popular and capable father. Because he's an incompetent, the show is on the verge of cancellation, forcing Peter and his loser crew to conjure a last-ditch must-see show to preserve their jobs. That opportunity presents itself when Peter gets a bead on a secret map that leads to the location of the mythological Bigfoot.
So he drags his half-wit friends across the border into Mexico, desperate to beat the rival wildlife show host (Harry Hamlin) to the punch. Of course, the trip is far from smooth, with Peter and company running into all manner of outrageous setbacks, including, but not limited too, a penis-hungry wild turkey, ill-tempered Latino gang members, nitrous poisoning, shark attacks, piranha attacks, psychotic Vietnam vet attacks and, ultimately, tragic, humiliating failure.
You know what's a whole lot funnier than what I expected? This movie. Not having heard much (i.e., nothing) about Strange Wilderness, a cursory glance at the creative team behind its existence instilled a handful of expectations. It's out of the Happy Madison production barn, renowned for vomiting out some incredibly moronic drivel, written and directed by former SNL writer Fred Wolf who's also fashioned quite a Moronic Drivel resume. Expectation needle lowering.
However, there are some funny people starring in this thing. Steve Zahn. Justin Long. Jonah Hill. Kevin Heffernan. Jeff Garlin. Expectation needle rising.
Then I read the plot synopsis on the back of the disc and saw the term "amorous turkey." Expectation needle lowering.
But Ernest Borgnine is in this movie! Expectation needle rising.
Regardless, I wasn't planning for a barrel of laughs when I spooled this disc up but, lo and behold, I laughed more than a bunch of times. And they were robust, deep laughs, derived from gags that I think about now and still chortle at. Like that clip from Peter's show where he drives his van up to the camera, gets out, spills litter on the ground, says something to the camera, gets back into the car, scoops the rest of the litter out of the van on the ground and takes off. Well, I guess you had to be there, though if you were there with me watching it, I submit that you would also be laughing.
Do all the gags work? No way. There are kilotons of mind-numbingly stupid WTF moments here that aren't funny -- group vomiting into the mouth of a CGI shark? Nitrous-fueled RV orgy? -- but Fred Wolf and co-writer Peter Gaulke (yes they named characters from the movie after themselves) go the shock and awe approach with their gags. Nothing is off-limits and it's obvious to me they transcribed every feverish thought that entered their no-doubt-drug-addled mind and threw it into the script.
"Hey, let's have a turkey deep-throat Steve Zahn!"
"Yeah! And then when he's at the office, an attractive nurse strokes the turkey's neck to loosen its grip and Steve Zahn becomes aroused!"
"High-larious! How about we have Robert Patrick cameo as a pycho ex-soldier who had his genitals mauled by natives!"
"Bingo! Then, let's show a close-up of those genitals!"
"Aw man, this movie is going to rule!"
There's not an atom of believability here, none of the characters' actions make any sense, and nothing is grounded in any kind of realism, but this movie isn't concerned with any of that. All Strange Wilderness is interested in is throwing as many ludicrous gags at you at hoping that one or two of them will elicit a hearty laugh or two from you. It's like the Daisy Cutter of stupid frat-boy comedy. And I'll be the first to admit, I am a victim of its collateral damage.
Acting-wise, here's the rundown: Steve Zahn? Funny. Allen Covert? Funny. Jeff Garlin? Funny. Justin Long? Kind of funny. Jonah Hill? He has his moments. Kevin Heffernan? Hilarious. The only casualty in the casting is Ashley Scott (Jericho) who seems totally out of place in what is essentially a boys locker room.
The DVD is good. Video (2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen) and audio (5.1 Dolby Digital) are both winners, pushing a pleasant looking and sounding technical treatment. There are a decent amount of extras, though none are terribly deep: deleted scenes, a featurette on the turkey, some on-set improv footage and a "Reel Comedy" documentary.
Strange Wilderness is beyond idiotic, but I laughed enough times to give it a recommendation. My dignity took a hit, but I'll get over it. Oh, and the Bigfoot finale is genius.
Not guilty. I'm just as surprised as you.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Making-of Documentary
* Bonus Footage
* Official Site