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By Matthew Sorrento | February 4, 2008

“Strange Wilderness” doesn’t really describe this release as much as it indicates the forces behind it. It’s nothing more than a ragtag run of supposedly comic bits, and is not afraid to hide it. It seems as if the filmmakers and cast swore to the gods of the bong before the shoot that they would never stray from acting stoned, as this movie’s comedy shamelessly keeps things one-note.

Steve Zahn, who fared much better as a man trapped in the Laotian jungle in Herzog’s “Rescue Dawn,” plays a host of a TV nature show with plummeting ratings. It’s no secret that the only reason Zahn’s Pete has the gig is that it was handed down from his successful father. For Pete acts like a kid brought to daddy’s job when he coos on the show’s voiceover as lions begin to mate. A grown man who never struggles to be boyish, Zahn looks like a David Lee Roth-wanna be ready to lead a drunken karaoke session. And the scary part: he’s the more level-headed of his stoner film crew.

The crew includes Allen Covert, a regular Adam Sandler collaborator (one of the “brains” behind this production), and professional tubby dude, Jonah Hill. Hill, who’s only mildly funny on a good day (Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s Fogel ran circles around him in last summer’s “Superbad”), decides to invoke a mock-southern accent, especially odd since he plays off his Jewishness in most films. With every stoned laugh and wisecrack, I wanted to lodge their bongs right down their throats.

Since this is a crew in special need of motivation, the plot sets them toward finding bigfoot in the South American jungle. But really, it creates a purpose for the dudes to hop in an RV for what in the filmmakers’ minds is to be a road trip. The crew includes one woman (Ashley Scott) who is cast as a dartboard for the sex-obsessed jokes the writers just had to toss out. Peter decides to film wildlife for their show on their way to finding their prize, in scenes that shamelessly attempt to match stock footage with studio sets and California locations. The use of found footage intended to match-edit their locales, along with the use of wildlife animal scenes, is so crude that I want to call this an exploitation film. (Of nature, that is.)

But really, it’s a movie that manages to grow more idiotic by the scene. It’s diverting for a crewmember dressed as a seal to be eaten by sharks, but when Zahn’s c**k gets gobbled by a turkey that won’t let go, the movie tries to extend the joke into a doctor’s office. It’s amazing to see Zahn’s dedication to acting freaked with a feathery protuberance fixed to his groin. This movie’s humor may have had a chance if it were geared towards a pre-adolescent crowd, but the nudity and crude content is firmly at the R-level. The producers need a lesson in audience focus, for they have committed suicide with the tone of this film.

And I mean only for pre-adolescents. This film goes for a new low with dick jokes: a whole scene is built around the film crew cackling over a forest guide who’s named, “just Dick.” And he later gets “eaten” by piranha just so the joke can be rehashed. The viewers eat much worse.

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