Judge Dan Mancini enjoys a good poop joke as much as the next guy.
This time it's pets against wilds. Wiener takes all!
Sony Pictures Animation's debut effort, Open Season, did solid business internationally but under-performed in the United States. That's too bad because it's a decent little buddy picture with genuinely funny slapstick and some gorgeously rendered outdoor scenery. Loosely based on Steve Moore's "In the Bleachers" comic strip, the CG-animated movie is about the unlikely friendship between a semi-domesticated grizzly bear named Boog (Martin Lawrence, Bad Boys) and a bumbling one-antlered mule deer named Elliot (Ashton Kutcher, Dude, Where's My Car?). Comic antics ensue when Elliot convinces Boog to leave his home in a park ranger's garage and experience life in the wild—during hunting season. The movie's solid worldwide box office take wasn't enough for Sony Pictures Animation to greenlight a theatrical sequel, but they have gone back to the well with this direct-to-DVD follow-up.
Open Season 2 kicks off with Boog (Mike Epps, Resident Evil: Apocalypse) and Elliot (Joel McHale, The Soup) happily ensconced in the woods with their friends, Serge the duck (Danny Mann, Happy Feet) and McSquizzy (Billy Connolly, The X-Files: I Want to Believe), the short-tempered gray squirrel. Elliot has grown out a full rack of antlers and is on the verge of settling down with doe-eyed doe Giselle (Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock). Joining the wild animals is Mr. Weenie (Cody Cameron, Madagascar), a dachshund who escaped his smothering, Winnebago-driving mistress and her milquetoast husband. When Weenie is briefly recaptured by the humans, he comes to the attention of a high-strung toy poodle named Fifi (Crispin Glover, Back to the Future) who despises wild animals and is determined to return the dachshund to domesticity whether he likes it or not. Boog, Elliot, and the others spring into action to save their short-legged friend.
I've only seen the original Open Season on Blu-ray where detail is so vivid you can make out the individual hairs on the animals, so it's difficult for me to assess, on DVD, whether the character animation has been downgraded for this more budget-conscious sequel. If it has, the change is minor. Even if some fine detail has been fudged, Boog, Elliot, and the rest of the gang look pretty much as they did in the original. More important, they remain flexible and expressive enough to pull off physics-defying, Looney Tunes-style slapstick. A first act game of war using rabbits as ammunition is particularly fast-paced and funny. The folks at Sony Pictures Animation seem to have wisely chosen not to cut corners on the characters, while saving a few bucks by reducing the scope of the picture. Open Season 2 is definitely less epic than the first movie. Its scenery and action set pieces contain nothing as grand as the down-river chase and plunge over a waterfall that is one of the most memorable sequences from the first film. Yet the movie still has plenty of eye candy. Some extended mayhem near the end takes place at a pet-friendly resort with a swimming pool and towering, twisting waterslides, all rendered in eye-popping primary colors.
For what it's worth, Open Season 2 does manage to maintain the same high density of poop jokes as its predecessor. Make of that fact what you will.
The movie suffers from the absence of a strong villainous presence. Crispin Glover is always entertaining when cut loose to chew scenery, but his Fifi the poodle can't match the comical, dunderheaded menace of the red-neck hunter played by Gary Sinise in the first film. Since Fifi is a weak antagonist, the narrative stakes seem much smaller this time around. Mike Epps and Joel McHale prove fine replacements for Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher. They capture the essence of Boog and Elliot while also bringing their own vibe to the work. Thankfully, most of the secondary cast returns for the sequel. Jane Krakowski's role is greatly expanded in the sequel, though her character isn't particularly dynamic. Bill Connolly plays an irate squirrel as only Billy Connolly can. Unfortunately, Patrick Warburton does not return as the dumb jock, alpha male mule deer, Ian. Instead we get a pale imitation.
Open Season 2 is no classic (neither was the original), but it's a competent check-your-brain-at-the-door comedy for children of all ages. The animation and storytelling may not stack up against Pixar's (whose does?), but the flick offers something that Pixar movies generally don't: old school cartoon slapstick and sight gags in the mold of Bugs Bunny.
The movie looks great on DVD. Colors are bold, lighting is supple, and digital artifacts are non-existent. Audio is presented in a robust Dolby 5.1 mix.
The disc has a surprising number of extras, though none of them is spectacular. "The Game Zone" contains no less than five remote-control based games. They're all forgettable, but young children might enjoy them. "Going Wild! With the Voice Cast" is a 14-minute featurette that introduces us to the actors behind the animated characters. "How to Draw Boog, Elliot, and Fifi" is an 18-minute featurette hosted by storyboard artist Sean Mullen that delivers exactly what the title promises. There are three deleted scenes presented in storyboard form. They run a total of six minutes. Finally, there's a link to some online games and activities as well as previews for Open Season, Gym Teacher, Playmobil: The Secret of Skull Island, Holly Hobbie, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Monster House, and Surf's Up.
Open Season 2 is as frenetic and silly as Open Season, even if it doesn't match that film's scale and visual beauty. A strong transfer and a decent (if kid-centric) array of extras ensure that this straight-to-DVD release offers plenty of family-friendly entertainment.
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