I never thought I’d be nostalgic for a movie that I reviewed just last year, but The Wild made me pine for the salad days of Madagascar, another animals on the lam from the zoo movie. Both films are animated; they feature similar plot lines—in both films a group of animals escape from a New York City zoo to return to the jungle and discover something about themselves—and both films rely on silly humor aimed at the tween set.
The Wild features much more photo realistic computer animation than Madagascar, although the animals—a father and son set of lions, a koala, a squirrel, a giraffe and a snake—look more like domestic stuffed animals come to life than real citizens of the wild. The filmmakers, led by Canadian born and trained Steve “Spaz” Williams, have crafted a movie that looks great but is thin in the story department. Perhaps some of the time spent on the animated binary code, ensuring that all 16 millions hairs on the poodle character looked realistic would have been more wisely used coming up with a story that could be described in words other than “ho-hum.”
There are some clever pop culture references—how many kid’s movies reference Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?—and some funny lines, but too often the movie resorts to childish theatrics and slapstick to be in the same league with Finding Nemo, The Lion King or even Madagascar.