January 4, 2007 -- “Open Season” is an animated comedy about a domesticated bear that is forced to live in the wilderness. It is a pretty standard story, a combination of a fish out of water story and a mismatched partner cop story. The bear, Boog (voice by Martin Lawrence of “Big Momma's House”), is happy in town with his forest ranger keeper, Beth (voice by Debra Messing of “The Mothman Prophecies”). He performs on stage with Beth during outdoor lectures she gives to tourists, but Beth knows that Boog is getting too big to live in town anymore. Her decision to release Boog into the wild is forced when he and an outcast deer, Elliot (voice by the omnipresent Ashton Kutcher of “The Guardian”), break into a store and trash the place.
Elliot and Boog are unlikely friends, but the plot forces them together until they finally do become friends, just like Shrek and the Donkey. Boog is determined to get back to town, not knowing that hunting season is about to start. During their shenanigans in town, Boog and Elliot have also made an enemy of a local hunter, Shaw (voice by Gary Sinese of “CSI New York” TV series), who comes gunning for them. When Shaw sees Elliot walking upright on two legs like a human, he begins to think that some kind of revolution among the animals is happening. He's not far off. In this story, the animals don't wait around to be shot by hunters, they take the battle right to them. Leading the fight are some very feisty squirrels with Scottish accents (provided by a real Scot, Billy Connolly). Also in the fight is a very scary aerial assault by ducks hauling skunks. Shaw is an interesting character. He does an amusing air guitar sort of thing with his hunting rifle. He is wacky and over the top and more funny than he is scary.
While there is nothing original in the story or the animation, I laughed more while watching this film than I have during any other animated film I've seen this year. The characters are solid and there is plenty of good old slapstick humor in it, too. This is an entertaining family film, although some of the humor is crude (including the dreaded and much overused flatulence jokes). After watching weeks worth of deadly serious art films at the end of the year, it was nice to watch a film that is simply fun to watch. It has no pretensions of greatness. It aims only to entertain and amuse and it does just that. This film rates a B.
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