The Wild (2006) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 12th August, 2018
Samson the lion lives in New York Zoo with his son Ryan, he tries to teach his cub to roar, but a whimpering meow is all that comes out. One night, Ryan attempts to prove his predatory skills by attacking the Gazelles, which goes wrong, creating a stampede, and this makes Samson very angry. Humiliated, Ryan runs away, only to end up in a box to Africa, so it’s up to Samson and his friends to rescue the cub.
Once in Africa, we learn that, despite his self hype, Samson is not really from the wild, and this comes as a hindrance to everyone’s original survival chances. To make things worse, local wildebeests have decided to develop into predators, carnivores worthy of taking down lions, and Samson’s koala friend Nigel is considered to be their god like idol.
This film has gained notoriety for it’s uncanny resemblance to Dreamworks’ Madagascar, considering that it’s the tale of a bunch of zoo animals having to survive in Africa, but the comparisons go beyond the premise itself. You see, both films share the same hyperactive “please laugh at me, I beg you” sense of energy, the kind of desperate obnoxious comedy that thinks simply making characters move & talk constantly is automatically hilarious, but instead, forces me to want to take headache pills.
Characters are frequently going to frantic lengths to keep the audience chuckling, but this just makes the jokes that fall, even harder to stomach, because they keep relentlessly attempting to score laughs; without any concern for careful timing, structured pacing, or natural organic execution. Luckily, unlike “Madagascar”, there are a reasonable number of gags that succeeded to get a giggle out of me, you just have to put up with the rubbish ones first, and I won’t lie that the juvenile misfires are difficult to swallow.
Even though the comedy is mixed, and the idea for the movie is redundant, I can’t say that the film has nothing to offer, because there’s some things that saved it for me. The idea of a father raising his son on lies, to help inspire him to grow strong, is a fascinating concept that walks the thin line of parenting ethics, and opens up questions about the moral conundrum of making sure you’re a hero to your child.
Samson is a lion who was raised by a cruel aggressive father, so it makes sense that he’d go to extremes to make his son motivated, because he doesn’t want his kid to go through what he did. He isn’t a bad guy, he will immediately apologise if he says the wrong thing, and won’t give up the rescue for Ryan once he’s sent to Africa, but he is certainly trying too hard to not be like his own dad. When the film chills the hell out, to let the drama unfold, it is possible to enjoy this dad’s quest to save his son; even if you have to put up with comic relief characters eating the camera or wailing loud unfunny dialogue at the side.
I also love our antagonists! These wildebeests are a blast, as they get the best laughs in the film, thanks to their campy love of singing & dancing, plus it’s kind of funny that they mistake a koala teddy as a sign that Nigel is their new god. Using these villains, the film touches on the idea of prey challenging predators, to the point where they want to shift the natural order, and attempt to dismantle the very food chain that the animal kingdom functions on. It’s rare that prey become the antagonists in a talking animal movie, I like the idea of the bottom of the food train trying to rise up, it’s a silly concept, and a nice change of pace from seeing predators in the role.
To conclude, “The Wild” suffers from having overly frantic comedy that often annoyed the shit out of me, but it is capable of laugh out loud gags sometimes, and I was engaged in the story whenever the characters decided to shut the hell up or tone down their personalities. There’s some nuggets to pan for while swimming through the muck, little things worth appreciating, especially when we have to sit through so much irritating noise.
Yes, the stronger elements of the film aren’t that fresh, they are themes Disney have explored or would touch on later in other movies (some of which did the same ideas better), but they’re still decently handled, and they helped compensate for the more unbearable parts of the movie. The film is quite short, barely reaching the 80 minute mark, so don’t expect the adventure to be anything too extraordinary, as the focus is mainly on goofy hi-jinks and father-son drama.
Does it remind me too much of “Madagascar”? Sure! But I can honestly say that this is the more enjoyable one of the two to me. I also doubt that Disney intentionally ripped of Madagascar, considering that it can take 2 years to make a theatrical animated feature, and “Madagascar” was released only a year before “The Wild”. I don’t blame people for accusing Disney of plagiarism, especially knowing their reputation for competing with Dreamworks, but let’s be realistic before playing the rip off card.
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