Since the studio decided not to screen Strange Wilderness for the press, I was forced to head out on my own (albeit tax deductible) dime to my local Movie Tavern to see the flick on opening night. Now, if you aren’t familiar with the Movie Tavern phenomenon, let me say that it is certainly something to behold. It is the curiously hot transvestite of the movie theater and fine dining industries, mixing good food (think Applebee’s) with movies. In this particular case, I was thankful that the Tavern is a purveyor of alcoholic beverages, as I knew I would need something to take the sting off of another Happy Madison produced comedy.
Little did I know that there is no amount of alcohol that could possibly take the sting out of having to sit through the nails on a chalkboard-esque annoyance that is Strange Wilderness. Happy Madison’s last flick Grandma’s Boy may have been both stupid and funny, but Strange Wilderness is just stupid. In fact, the film reaches such a tragically unfunny level that I found myself scrolling through the address book in my Blackberry, searching for the numbers of people with whom I no longer want to be associated and deleting them.
The story centers around Peter (Steve Zahn), a second generation wildlife show host who has successfully driven his father’s once great show into the ground thanks to heavy doses of pot and a crew of nitwits. And even though said crew of nitwits (which includes Grandma’s Boy‘s Allen Covert, Superbad‘s Jonah Hill, Accepted‘s Justin Long, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry‘s Peter Dante, Super Troopers‘ Kevin Heffernan and Jericho‘s Ashley Scott) are loyal, they are not in any way cut out for the television business. So when the head of the television studio that runs the show (played by Jeff Garlin) threatens to cancel them, this rag-tag team of imbeciles sets out on a journey to find and capture for the first time on film, the legend that is Big Foot.
From there, the results are absolutely disastrous. It is mind-numbing to me to think that a film with a premise like that could end up with zero story arc. Despite the fact that we are given a conflict and a resolution, the film yields no notable climax — for the laymen among us, nothing ever really happens.
In addition, the film’s comedic pace is completely incoherent, playing out less like a funny movie and more like an incoherent jumbling of bad Saturday Night Live skits that should have died on the floor in the writer’s room at Rockafeller Center. The performances were disappointingly sub-par as well. Steve Zahn, who has shown us bits of greatness in films like 2007’s Rescue Dawn, just flails around like a hyper kid just off his Ridalin. He should have been giving the audience someone to root for, instead we just feel sad for his character. Jonah Hill also stands out as being completely out of place. It defies all logic how he can go from something so rock solid and hysterical like Superbad to something as blatantly moronic as this.
If you combine the unnervingly bad script (penned by director Fred Wolf and co-producer Peter Gaulke) with the wasted talent in the cast, you get a film that is a pointless, humorless mess. To be quite honest, Strange Wilderness is a modern day comedic tragedy. The only redeeming value of the experience was that I discovered the wonders of the Movie Tavern and its giant-sized beer mugs. Oh, and the nachos were pretty damn good, as well.