- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

Read the credits of “Open Season,” the debut film by Sony Pictures Animation, and you’ll discover its computer-generated characters have more handlers than J.Lo. There’s a CG hair lead. Texture painters. Look development lighters. Shaders. A software supervisor.

All told, this particular animated flick employed more than 200 artists and animators for four years — not uncommon in today’s CGI frenzy.

Then come the big-name stars that come with big-name price tags; in this case, Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher and Debra Messing among others. The studio has a lot riding on this feature.

Which begs the question, was it worth all that time and loot? From the audience’s perspective, it’s a decisive yes. “Open Season” is a goofy and witty buddy flick that both young and old can appreciate.

Its lush animation slam-dunks everything from breathtaking landscapes to teeny-tiny hairs on the animals’ bodies. Its story line weaves together a fairly complex web of subplots, resembling a live-action movie more than a cartoon.

Plus, the film’s overall entertainment value is high, largely due to the funny one-liners and physical comedy supplied by Mr. Kutcher and Mr. Lawrence.

While the box office will ultimately reveal whether Sony invested wisely, “Season” has certainly proven the studio’s potential. Look out Pixar and DreamWorks. The plot centers on a docile, domesticated grizzly bear named Boog (voiced by Mr. Lawrence). He resides in park ranger Beth’s (Debra Messing) garage, where he watches “Wheel of Fortune” and is kept company by a cute teddy bear.

While out in town with Beth, Boog sees a mule deer strapped to the hood of a hunter’s car. He frees the scrawny, hyperactive buck-let, Elliot (Mr. Kutcher), and thus gains an unlikely friend while also making an enemy in the hunter.

Later, in a cliched but humorous scene, Elliot convinces Boog to raid a mini-mart. Unfortunately, our bear-buddy gets caught red-slushie-handed, and authorities force Beth to release Boog into the wild. Uh-oh.

The “mighty” grizzly finds himself in the wilderness with zero survival skills. He can’t even go to the bathroom outside. But that’s not the worst part. Open season is about to begin, meaning the couple has to battle both Mother Nature and human nature.

The buddies attempt to return home and, in the process, meet a variety of colorful characters: a Scottish-accented squirrel who rules a gang of squirrel-hooligans; a pair of sassy Latina skunks; a herd of hardworking beavers who trade lunches (wood for wood, of course); a creepy, stalkerish porcupine; and so on.

If these critters all feel vaguely familiar perhaps it’s because we’ve seen similar characters in previous animated features — namely, the highly successful “Ice Age” and its sequel. Still, they manage to inject “Seasons” with a wonderfully silly humor.

Outcasts Boog and Elliot succeed in making animal adversaries wherever they go, but in the end, they’ll have to unite with their fellow forest dwellers to outlast hunting season.

Do they succeed?

Here’s a hint: There’s no campy rendition of “I Will Survive” at the movie’s end.

Hopefully, the newly minted Sony Pictures Animation will fare as well Boog and Elliot.


TITLE: “Open Season”

RATING: PG for some potty humor and mild peril … and the scariest rendition of “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” you’ll ever hear.

CREDITS: Directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi. Written by Steve Bencich, Ron Friedman and Nat Mauldin.

RUNNING TIME: 79 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/openseason




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