Sony Pictures Animation gets off to a good start with its first computer-animated feature, Open Season (Columbia), an entertaining addition to what has already been a banner year for pixilated pleasures. And while not matching Pixar's best, it can be enjoyed by all but the very youngest viewers.
By turns wacky, warm and reasonably witty, the tale centers on Boog (voiced by Martin Lawrence), a domesticated grizzly bear who enjoys a pampered life in the hamlet of Timberline, where he lives in the garage of Beth (Debra Messing), the forest ranger who rescued him as a cub, and performs daily in an outdoor nature show.
Boog befriends runty, motor-mouthed mule deer Elliot (Ashton Kutcher), whom he frees from the hood of a truck owned by rabid huntsman Shaw (Gary Sinise).
Through a series of nutty occurrences, Boog is released back into the wild, still saddled with Elliot, who, minus one antler, resembles Max, the put-upon pooch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Trying to find his way back home, Boog encounters a menagerie of woodland creatures, with whom he eventually bands to run the hunters out of the forest.
Other voice talent includes Patrick Warburton as an alpha elk, Jon Favreau as a beaver and Billy Connolly as McSquizzy, a pugnacious Scottish squirrel who steals the show. Boog and Elliot's odd-couple banter is not as sharp as that in Shrek between the green ogre and his wisecracking sidekick, Donkey, but they're endearing nonetheless.
Visually, the film is vibrant, with the forest setting and the stylized critters given impressive detail, especially Boog's fur.
Directed by Jill Culton and Roger Allers (with a co-director credit to Anthony Stacchi), the film is a bit thin plotwise and padded with slapstick, but its playful tone and amiable message about friendship make it good family fun.
There are some scenes mostly involving the sinister Shaw and his rifle that may be a touch scary for sensitive children, but obviously the film is geared toward the cubs, though adults will find it highly bearable!
The film contains some mildly rude language and humor, a few scenes of hunting menace, some innuendo and comic action. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
(This review appears courtesy of US Conference of Catholic Bishop's Office for Film and Broadcasting.)