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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: Strange Wilderness

Review by Drew Hunt

I really took a bullet for the Tribute today. Here's my review of Strange Wilderness starring Steve Zahn, Justin Long, and Jonah Hill.

Happy Madison's newest non-Sandler starring venture, Strange Wilderness, came and went this weekend without so much as a blip on the proverbial box office radar. This is probably because there was no press screening prior to its release (which, for all intents and purposes, is never a good sign), but for the sake of my ongoing belief in humanity, I'll hope it was because people were smart enough to see that this flick is a stinker, which it most certainly is.

Directed by former Saturday Night Live writer Fred Wolf, the film stars Steve Zahn as Peter Gaulke (who happens to share the name of Wolf's writing partner), a slacker disguised as a nature show host who is in desperate need of some ratings, having succesfully driven his father's beloved show into the ground after taking the ropes upon his death. After obtaining a map of Bigfoot's jungle lair, he and his partner, one Fred Wolf (Sandler regular Allen Covert) assemble a rag tag crew for the biggest expedition of their lives.

Unfortunately for them, they failed to pack anything resembling a joke.

"Wilderness" is originally based off a decade-old series of wildlife shorts penned by Wolf and Gaulke (the real ones), which greatly explains why the film plays like an SNL sketch stretched far beyond its breaking point.

After proving to be a somewhat formidable duo in the college comedy Accepted, Frat Pack pledges Jonah Hill and Justin Long both consistently drop the ball as two members of Gaulkes crew. More frustrating is Hill's performance rather than Long's (his character is akin to his turn in Mike Judge's Idiocracry -- just throughout the whole movie) as he has proven numerous times to be shining star in a new crop of young comedic minds. But after performing several lame, cutesy-profane acoustic guitar numbers, the shtick grows tiresome and his constrained role becomes one of the film's biggest annoyances. I entered the film hoping the two would provide some its redeemable qualities, but they unfortunately end up being one its biggest flaws.

Frankly, there isn't a single redeeming quality throughout the entire movie. Instead, we have copious bong humor: there's one character vomiting into a sharks mouth; then there's this encounter with a deranged Vietnam vet (Robert Patrick) who proudly displays his mutilated scrotum; and, of course, an almost unmentionable scene involving a turkey and the act of felatio.

These results are not good.

It's evident that Wolf's cast -- which also includes Harry Hamlin, Ernest Borgnine, Broken Lizard sketch troupe member Kevin Heffernan, Peter Dante, and Ashley Scott as the honorary female member of the troupe -- has been encouraged to improvise wherever they see fit, which only accentuates the negative. You get the feeling the movie was made up entirely on the stop. Apparently central story is not valued in Wolf's world. There's no evidence of anyone breaking a sweat to make this movie.

Which, possibly, could be the theme of the entire movie. Maybe the filmmakers vision was to drive home the idea that life shouldn't be taken seriously, and they took this philosophy and even applied it to the film making process itself.

Somehow, though, I doubt this.