I’m not sure how many people are familiar with the process of moviemaking, but when a film is not up to studio expectation and takes a long time to finally arrive to theaters after filming has wrapped, the result is sometimes due to financial issues with the studio. But most of the time it’s due to the fact that the studio has seen the final product, and it’s so abhorrent and without any value, redeeming, comic or otherwise, that it will be released as quietly and without recognition as possible. Now I don’t know if there were any financial issues surrounding Strange Wilderness, but I will say this: the film was shooting as far back as December 2005 and was released in February 2008, and at this point on rottentomatoes.com, there is not one positive review from the three dozen that are on the site. I’ll leave it to you to decide what the reasons why are.
Strange Wilderness was written by Peter Gaulke and co-written (and directed) by Fred Wolf. Both of whom were writers on Saturday Night Live. Wolf, in fact, is the head writer for the show to this day. The film is based on a series of shorts the pair would put together, and in the feature, Peter (Steve Zahn, Rescue Dawn) is the son of a nature reporter and enthusiast, and does a show extolling nature, but things aren’t going his way. So, after an unproductive meeting with his network executive (Jeff Garlin, Curb Your Enthusiasm), he decides to go on an expedition for well-known wilderness legend Bigfoot. So he packs up his crew, which include Cooker (Jonah Hill, Superbad), Junior (Justin Long, Walk Hard), Fred (Allen Covert, Little Nicky) and Danny (Peter Dante, Big Daddy), and they all head out into the woods to find Bigfoot. Peter’s crew is a couple of cans short of a six pack, so wacky hijinks ensue.
Well, the hijinks aren’t completely wacky, I mean, a turkey fellates a member of the crew, a shark is known by a uniquely derogatory term, stuff goes on way too long and becomes unfunny rather quickly. Those jokes are set against the presumptive background, which is Zahn providing comic narration over some old nature footage. Some of it is actually funny, but the rest is kind of painful and juvenile, and considering the comic roots of this cast, very very disappointing and phoned in.
Having said that, there’s a bit of a charm that accompanies the folks of Strange Wilderness, but basically this is a combination of Half Baked with The Crocodile Hunter, but when you do that, you’re basically repeating the MTV show Wildboyz, which was easily funnier and a helluva lot more engaging than this thing was, which begs the question, “Why was it ever made in the first place?”
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, but there’s not a lot of environmental noise and ambient sound effects that take advantage of the surround sound, and the subwoofer doesn’t even get out of the proverbial cave, so to speak. This is laid out rather sonically and there aren’t any surprises to gain here
2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the others are shooting higher quality films on 1.85:1, Strange Wilderness is shot in Scope, in large part because Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions office was responsible for financing this thing, partially because of Sandler’s collaboration with Covert and Dante. But hey, as far as underachieving gross-out comedies go, this is pretty much run of the mill.
I guess it’s only fair since so many people are dismissive on this, the beefiest feature would be a Comedy Central promotional piece touting the film. Hosted by a female comic whose name I don’t know, partially because it’s not important enough for me to remember, the abundant clips from the film are interspersed between the cast interviewed for the film near some animals at a pet farm. Because the film has animals in it, you know? Glad I didn’t have surgery recently, because my stitches would be busting! Thirteen deleted scenes lasting the same amount of time as the Comedy Central piece (22 minutes) are next, and aside from a complete song sung by Hill, and an ad-libbed line about another tattoo on Long, these are all pretty boring. Another version of Hill’s song is included both before and after the cameras immediately roll and is kind of boring. “The Turkey” is a seven-minute piece on the bird that’s violated in the film, while “What Do We Do?” is another six minutes watching takes and mainly showing Hill and Long as they try to crack up Borgnine. Trailers for The Love Guru, Cloverfield and Drillbit Taylor close the disc out.
Stoner references aside, Strange Wilderness is an 84-minute waste of time. Well, there are a couple of laughs here and there, which reduces it down to an 79-minute waste of time. There’s a lot of people that could have made this better than it was, and the story is pretty pointless. The extras are just as pointless, so if given a second chance, I wouldn’t gave given Strange Wilderness the time of day.