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Just Another Date-Rapey Wolf Movie

By Agent Bedhead | Film Reviews | September 20, 2010 | Comments ()


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Shall I attempt to feign surprise that Lionsgate's debut in the 3D-animated game has met a wholly disastrous end? After watching Alpha and Omega, I can attest that, much like this movie's titular wolf pack caste system, there's no room for Betas to be found with 3D kiddie flicks -- they either rise to the top or irredeemably kick an audience in the crotch. So yes, there are limits to my recent Despicable Me-inspired optimism regarding wide-open playing fields for studios to challenge territory previously known only to Pixar. With this movie, Lionsgate doesn't even climb out of the sewer with visuals (courtesy of India's Crest Animation) that are, at best, inconsistent and range from lush waterfalls to flat-looking forests. Use of 3D, again, is irregular and tends towards the gimmicky while, inexplicably, ignoring the presumed depth of arboreal features and, instead, placing all focus upon the wolf characters, whose human-like movements betray the movie's general lack of attention to detail. This is not to mention the "romantic" interludes within wolf courtships, which culminate in soaring power ballads only previously thought to exist on VH1.

At first, Alpha and Omega's ultimate issue involves a shortage of food and, consequently, two different wolf packs warring over hunting territory, but I guess the screenwriters took an extended lunch break and forgot all about that tidy little mess. Instead, the plot devolves into a matter of star-crossed mates fighting against the inherent social strata within wolf packs. As a fun-loving, ne'er-do-well Omega, Bogey Humphrey (Justin Long) secretly loves one of his lifelong friends, an Alpha named Kate (Hayden Panettiere), who thinks Humphrey is passably cute but has resigned herself to an arranged Alpha marriage; and although the pair's fate is forecasted in all sorts of Lady and the Tramp shades, the pressure is on to extend this pic to the 90-minute mark. So, Kate's father, Winston (Danny Glover, a shame, but prepare yourself for even worse) strikes a deal with Tony (Dennis Hopper, going out with a fizzle) to have Kate marry Tony's alpha son, Garth (Chris Carmack); presumably, this mating shall end the feud between tribes. Unfortunately for Kate, Garth just happens to be David Beckham of wolves; that is, Garth is the perfect physical specimen until he opens his mouth, thereby releasing a howl that sounds like Mariah Carey in heat and extinguishing all interest on the part of Kate.

Somehow and by the intervening help of nature wardens with tranquilizer darts, Humphrey and Kate commence a drugged-up (presumably from Ecstasy-like effects) courtship and soon find themselves displaced from Canada's Jasper National Park to an Idaho forest. There, the pair encounters a couple of feathery plot-furthering devices -- a golfing French-Canadian goose, Marcel (Larry Miller), and a caddying British duck, Paddy (Eric Price) -- who reckon that the wolves were brought to Idaho to "repopulate" the park's nonexistent wolf population. Of course, this sets up the rest of the picture with "repopulation" jokes and suggestive remarks from Humphrey, who clearly relishes the alone time with Kate and sees this diversion as an opportunity to put the moves on his lady love. Together, the two wolves must work together to journey back home and stop the madness that's about to go down between the wolf packs. In the process, the pair's bond strengthens, and the annoyance of the story's predictability is only surpassed by the utter futility of watching Kate fall in love with a wolf who's nearly as date-rapey as Jacob Black. Rest assured, however, that In the U.S.-celebrated tradition of eschewing sex and celebrating violence, no real hanky panky occurs between mating wolves. Rubbing noses is about as far as it goes sexually, which might have something to do with dating advice from Kate's mom, Eve (Vicki Lewis), who instructs her daughters to "Go for the throat and don't let go until the body stops shaking!" Between Eve's later sociopathic rant ("I'll rip out your eyes and shove them down your throat so you can watch me tear apart your carcass!") and Humphrey's banal dialogue ("Kate is hot!"), poor Kate doesn't have a hope to develop as an actual character instead of a prized possession.

Meanwhile, children in the audience may grow confused when attempting to differentiate between Alphas and Omegas that both reside within their respective East vs. West wolf packs, and it's all a bit too much like The Lion King reimagined as a PG-rated version of Tupak Shakur's "California" video. Other highlights include scene transitions that are virtually nonexistent; the ridiculousness of multiple caribou stampedes (which don't make sense with all the whining over a food shortage); angry bears defending their young from absolutely nothing at all; and -- how could they resist -- the old fallback "impact to the balls, followed by wolfish whimpering" move. Of course, this movie could arguably have been worse (it doesn't descend into Furry Vengeance "humans suck" territory), and Christina Ricci makes a small appearance as a cute, violet-eyed Omega, which helps a bit. Still, one cannot shake the impression that Alpha and Omega is merely a slice-and-dice, budget kiddie flick, which wouldn't be so inherently awful if the filmmakers had invested, first and foremost, in a solid screenplay. Instead, the story makes half-baked attempts at conflict and resolution while never making a secret of where things shall end between the tribes and, more importantly, between Bogey and Kate. Presumably, the two fowl were intended for comic relief but are entirely wasted as dot-connecting informants tasked with (repeatedly) pointing the wolves in the direction of home. Nothing is particularly engaging about any of the characters and, for that matter, only the periodic crotch-bashing antics serve to remind the audience that we, along with the wolves, are supposedly living creatures. Because, you know, whenever I need a reminder of my own mortality, a good kick in the crotch is where it's at.

Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.



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