Have you ever been stalked by a lion? Judge David Johnson has. Well, it was actually his cat, but cats and lions are in the same family and this cat was pissed.
Out here, you're the endangered species.
Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot) and Peter Weller (Robocop) star in this Stepmom/The Ghost and the Darkness hybrid. Unfortunately, the cornball tedium of the former sapped away the excitement of the latter, leaving us with the most boring film about bloodthirsty, man-eating lions ever made.
Facts of the Case
The Newman family has landed in Africa for a relaxing getaway, but, unbeknownst to them, there are a pair of ill-tempered lions running around, feasting on any hapless passersby they stumble across.
While Tom (Weller), the father, is off doing some work-related stuff, his young, hot wife Amy (Moynahan) and two bratty kids David and Jessica, head out for a safari. When David has to take a break and water the lilies, the lions see some potential cuisine, and quickly attack the unsuspecting urinating boy and the safari guide accompanying him (not in a weird way, though). David is able to outrun the predators but the guide has no such luck and is mauled and eaten. Because he had the keys to the truck, David, Jessica and Amy are stranded, with the beasts circling the vehicle, staring at its occupants hungrily.
Meanwhile, Tom sets out with a crazy loner the locals don't like to talk about to find his wife and kids, who have succumbed to name-calling and smart-ass remarks while holed up in a 4x4 that doesn't move. And that's your movie.
This is what Prey is: 90 minutes of a three irritating characters sitting in a Jeep. As I watched this disaster unfold, I tried to keep my spirits up, telling myself that surely something interesting and halfway thrilling should happen soon. I was promised rampaging lions for crying out loud!
Well, there are lions and they do rampage a mite, but all told, the Mufasa-mayhem that makes it on screen is miniscule compared to the rest of the runtime filler; and that, kids, is nothing more than a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. See, Amy is the comely young wife of Tom and his kids are resentful towards their dad for shacking up with a smoking young bombshell. Jessica, the 14-year-old girl with an attitude that would drive nuns to kick their orphans in disgust, is the worst, constantly berating her stepmother.
Not that Amy doesn't deserve it. The girl's an idiot. About halfway through, she retrieves the keys to the Jeep. Well, that should take care of it right? Just turn the truck around and head back the way you came. Unfortunately for her, the kids, and the audience, she drives like a complete lunatic, spins out of control, and plows the Jeep into a ditch, thus prolonging the film for another 45 minutes. Why was she driving like a crazy person? I don't know. The lions weren't chasing her. A freak brush fire hadn't broken out. There were no signs of Martian tripods. As far as I can tell, Amy is just the world's worst driver and is nearly responsible for the deaths of two children because she can't tell the difference between the accelerator and the brake.
How about that lion action? It's minimal, and shot with quick edits and close-ups, and most of the blood effects are computer-generated. Worse, you get the milked-dry conceit of the stalking-predator-point-of-view, which, for a lion, is black and white and fuzzy-edged. Did someone consult Jack Hannah about this? There's a big, semi-tense finale where Amy utilizes some rudimentary science to defeat the male lion in the boss fight, and how she survives is anyone's guess. The build-up to the climax, though, is no different from any of the other underwhelming lion-on-Jeep action I was subjected to previously.
But, Dave, you ask, who cares about the lions? Do Amy and the kids reconcile and become a family again? Oh no, you won't get me to spoil what is easily the most irritating plot element of the film that easily; though, I will say this much: There are zero surprises in this movie. Zero. Everyone you think will die, dies; everyone you think will survive, survives.
The film looks sharp in its 1.85:1 anamorphic glory (the impressive detailing betrays the transparent CGI work, though) and the 5.1 mix, when it's used, outputs a loud, aggressive sound. Trailers are it for extras, though.
Being mauled and devoured by a lion would absolutely suck. But all of the potential terror and thrills are eviscerated by sympathy-free characters and a story that—quite literally—goes nowhere.
Guilty. There's more excitement at your local zoo.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
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