Open Season is a kids' movie that is only fitfully funny and doesn't have a terribly strong sense of what it wants to do. Sure, the kids will be entertained, but will they remember it tomorrow? Probably not. I guess the better question would be whether or not they will want to remember it. I also could not help but think about the place of celebrity voices in animated features.
The movie itself centers on Boog (Martin Lawrence), a domesticated bear who makes a living putting on shows for kids with his owner, Beth (Debra Messing).
One fateful day Boog meets Elliot, a deer tied to the hood of the town's most ruthless hunter. He had been hit by the hunter (Gary Sinise) in his car and was set to become his next trophy when Boog decides to help him get free. This sign of friendship leads Elliot to throw himself into Boog's life. Naturally, this upsets the delicate nature of his relationship with humanity.
The duo end up getting in trouble, and Boog is left to take the blame. This has the result of Boog being returned to the wild, and a life that he is completely ill-equipped to deal with. This brings the troublesome Elliot back to the bear's side. Elliot is looking for a new home and Boog is looking to return home, until hunting season starts, and all of the little woodland critters are put at risk by our leading duo's antics.
Boog organizes the forest in an attempt to fight off the hunters in a way that only animals can. This leads Boog to a revelation about his path in life as his outlook is forever changed by his experience with the wild side of life.
Open Season is the latest in what seems like an endless parade of animals in adventures movies. I have to say that I am getting a little tired of these — I need another Monster House or The Incredibles or something to get the taste of these films out of my mouth. Open Season is very inconsistent in its laughs and moments of entertainment. More often than not, it just slogs along as the climax rapidly approaches.
The best sequence in the movie takes place early on, during a scene silhouetted behind a curtain. The scene cuts back and forth between the crowd reacting to the shadows and to the pair behind the curtain and what is actually happening. Sure, it's been done before, but it was funny. I also liked the stuff with the porcupine and his calls of "Buddy!" Lastly, Billy Connolly is great as the squirrel McSquizzy. Then there is the endless violence against the rabbits — was it really necessary? Funny, yes — but they sure did get the short end of the stick.
A big problem I had was with the celebrity voices. There is a tradeoff when you sign stars to voice movie characters. On one hand you want to get a voice that fits the character, but the other hand needs the voices, and the characters they play, to be recognizable, or else the investment in the name will go for naught.
Open Season caused issues for me as I had trouble separating the star from the charcter; in particular with Elliot, I only saw Ashton Kutcher. This took me right out of the movie, and it became a star voicing a character rather than just a character. It makes me wonder if these voices are really that important in the selling of a project? Is it easier to sell a funny deer voiced by Ashton Kutcher than it is to sell a funny deer? Does the target audience even realize who Kutcher is?
Now, one thing to be clear on, I don't have any problem with celebrity voices that actually are the right voices for the character, such as Antonio Banderas as Puss 'n Boots in Shrek 2 or the duo of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks in the Toy Story films. I am merely saying it is not always effective, and strikes me as a selling point rather than any attempt at crafting a better movie.
Bottom line. I cannot really recommend this movie. The laughs are sparse and the story is nothing that we haven't seen a million times before. I am sure the kids will at least get a temporary kick out of it, but adults will probably just be bored. I would say wait for a rental.