Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Strange Wilderness

Illustration for article titled Strange Wilderness

Now that gifted comic actors Steve Zahn, Allen Covert, Jonah Hill, and Kevin Heffernan are acquainted after making Strange Wilderness, it's time they made a real movie together. Sloppy, choppy, and indifferently assembled, Strange Wilderness is slapdash even by the relaxed standards of its executive producer, Adam Sandler. But thanks to the unbridled verve of the cast—which also includes ringers like Joe Don Baker, Robert Patrick, and 91-year-old Ernest Borgnine, who seems a little too comfortable making bong jokes—it's also just funny enough to make viewers wish it were a whole lot better. Written and directed by Saturday Night Live vets Fred Wolf and Peter Gaulke, Strange Wilderness has three bad comic ideas for every good joke, and it botches many of those, too, thanks to slack comic timing and a nonexistent grasp of storytelling basics. But just when the flop-sweat stench is about to become unbearable, Strange Wilderness stumbles upon an uproarious, laugh-out moment, and suddenly it's tolerable again for another few minutes.

Playing the Sandler-esque man-child who learns to accept adult responsibility in order to meet a preposterous challenge, Zahn must save the wildlife television show he has run into the ground after taking it over two years prior from his late father. After network head Jeff Garlin gives him just two weeks to rescue the program from cancellation, Zahn comes across a map that will lead him to Bigfoot. Convinced he's found the ratings-grabber he needs to stay on the air, he assembles a ragtag team of stoners and losers played by Hill, Covert, Heffernan, Justin Long (generally at his funniest when he acts baked) and hilariously wacko scene-stealer Peter Dante to head off into the wild and carry out a scheme so crazy it just might work.

With the possible exception of monkeys, there's no funnier creature on the planet than Sasquatch. But a potentially good gag is wasted by a clumsily executed payoff that's neither humorous nor remotely logical. Such is the case with Wolf's direction throughout Strange Wilderness, which squanders not just the impressive cast, but his and Gaulke's script. Only when Wolf stays out of the way of outsized personalities like Zahn and Hill does Strange Wilderness threaten to become the goofy little laugh-fest a more sure-footed director could have made