Bottom of the Barrel
How does Strange Wilderness -- which started nearly a decade ago as a series of nature-show spoofs by former SNL writers -- miss its mark? We've all watched those television documentary-style nature shows -- and certainly certainly giggled once or twice at the sometimes unintentional humor those programs provide. After all, it's amusing when animals don't cooperate with a filmmaking crew, or when a rather cowardly show host sends members of his film crew into the mouth of danger. But, unfortunately, Strange Wilderness goes for stoner humor instead.
The film stars a lot of funny people, is written by a couple of brilliant up-and-coming screenwriters and its production company is best known for laugh-out-loud, slapstick comedies. But unfortunately even Happy Madison Productions couldn't get any mileage out of such comedic hard-hitters as Steve Zahn, Jonah Hill, Kevin Heffernan, and Allen Covert. Blame it on Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf's awful script that apparently calls for mind-altering illegal substances to "get" the humor. But, even then, is it still funny when movie characters drive around in a vehicle filled with mind-numbing inhalants? Thought we'd already been through that in countless Cheech & Chong movies, and even a couple of years ago when we went to White Castle. Stupid and high doesn't work like it used too. Now we need more.
Zahn is Peter Gaulke, the pot-smoking son of a legendary nature show host who has run his deceased father's program into the ground since taking over. Upon learning from the network that the show is about to be cancelled, Gaulke jumps at the opportunity to film Bigfoot when informed by a friend, Bill Calhoun (Joe Don Baker), of a map to the abominable creature's cave in South America. Hoping to get the show back on the air, Gaulke, gasses the Winnebago, fires up the bong, and gathers his motley crew before heading into the wild.
What ensues amounts to a freewheeling road comedy laced with stoner humor, sex gags, and other juvenile hijinks. It's the kind of stuff running rampant through any Junior High School across America, and while some smiles do come from watching the actors laugh at their own jokes (a la Jackass), none of it is really funny enough to produce anything more than a few slight chuckles. We mostly groan and squirm in our seats, wondering how such low-ball juvenilia was ever greenlighted.
With a cast that includes stars from such crass fare as Superbad, Beerfest, and Grandma's Boy, and with Adam Sandler's production company behind this thing, we knew we weren't getting a brand of comedy on the level of Mel Brooks, Woody Allen or even Sandler himself. But we did expect something funnier than what might come from a bunch of horny pre-teens on an unsupervised campout. I thought we'd reached the absolute bottom of the monkey barrel when the Jackass movies were unleashed on an unsuspecting public, but at least when those films went for gross-out funny, they did occasionally make us laugh. Here the gross-out humor is just gross. Not funny.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “R” for non-stop language, drug use, crude and sexual humor.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.