Open Season
© Columbia Pictures
Armen Boudjikanian · September 29, 2006 | There are two classic themes in Sony Pictures' first animated CG feature, Open Season: leaving home and animal survival. Both are principally acted out by the film's hero, the grizzly bear Boog. Both remain underdeveloped during the course of this slapstick film, and so following it on a story level feels like a chore. That's not to say that it's not worth checking out this movie—its visuals, especially in IMAX 3D, are very engaging. The problem is that Open Season does not offer innovative design, interesting characters or a peculiar scenario to grab hold of. While it is decently directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi and its personality animation is flawless (the close-ups of Boog charming ranger Beth look great), it fails to distinguish itself from the other animal cartoons that have been produced lately, despite the fact that the film's production quality is of very high calibre. (I barely paid attention to the CG technology used in this film, and the IMAX 3D left me breathless—especially when Boog is seen falling down a mountain, from top view.)

To start, though it's a treat to hear Martin Lawrence's voice bring life to a grizzly, Boog does not entrance its viewers the way The Jungle Book's Baloo or other happy-go-lucky animated heroes have in the past. Unlike his predecessors, Lawrence's character is domesticated and not independent. Although that is somewhat refreshing, we barely feel for Boog's loss when he is forced to leave his home. Boog is left in the forest by Beth, who regrettably decides that her domesticated bear is no longer suitable to live in her garage, or their small town. The grizzly wakes up after the tranquilizers wear off and he finds himself helpless in the wild, right before open season. His only hope for survival is Elliot the deer, an Eddie Murphy-esque sidekick (think Donkey from Shrek and Mushu from Mulan). The two of them begin to journey back to Beth, as Elliot—despite being a major annoyance—manages to win Boog's friendship. At first the duo is at odds with the rest of the forest animals, but then they are joined by them to fight off hunters. Meanwhile, Beth regrets letting go of her bear and begins to search for him, fearing for his safety. When Boog and Beth finally find each other, the grizzly is faced with the decision of either returning home or staying in the wild.

Open Season
Directed by Roger Allers, Jill Culton and Anthony Stacchi
Animation production by Sony Pictures Animation
Distributed by Columbia Pictures, 2006
99 minutes

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Some will say at this point that it's the clichés that leave the film feeling uninspired. That is true, but I think that the main issue here is storytelling. How can we truly sympathize with Boog when the film does not give any real reasons why he actually enjoys living in a small garage? Beth's affection and the miniature crackers she offers can't be enough for a bear—even an anthropomorphized one. Neither is Boog's day job (the two have a stage show) a good enough reason for him to never ask what's beyond the town's limits. Bears are large animals; they would be most content outdoors where there are trees, rivers, other bears and vast surfaces of open land inhabited by what would be their prey. It's funny how Beth, a park ranger, is not aware of this in most of the film. A smaller animal would have fit better in Boog's role.
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