Open Season
© 2006 Sony Pictures Animation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Mark Mayerson · January 23, 2007 | Open Season is Sony Pictures Imageworks' first CGI feature film. The story, which unfortunately will seem overly familiar, has to do with a wild animal living comfortably in civilization who ends up back in his natural environment and has to adjust to his changed circumstances. Yes, it's the same basic plot as Madagascar and The Wild.

Boog, the civilized bear, is voiced by Martin Lawrence. Elliot, his wild deer sidekick, is voiced by Aston Kutcher. Their relationship is uncomfortably close to Shrek and Donkey in terms of their size relationship and the level of annoying banter that never ceases.

Unfortunately, "annoying" is a word that comes up a lot in relation to this film. The majority of the forest animals that Boog encounters are obnoxious. The only difference between them and Shaw, the human hunter who is the main villain, is that the animals have less lethal weapons at their disposal. The film's climax is a confrontation between the forest animals and a pack of hunters. The hunters aren't developed as characters, so you've got the unlikable vs. the unknowable. It's hard to have a rooting interest in who wins.

Open Season
Directed by Jill Culton and Roger Allers; co-directed by Anthony Stacchi
Animation production by Sony Pictures Animation
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2007
Originally released theatrically in 2006
86 minutes

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Boog himself is a spoiled, pampered slob, so it's difficult to find a character you want to spend time with in this film. When you combine the lack of character appeal with an over-exposed plot, the result is not very engaging.

The DVD release includes a commentary by producer Michelle Murdocca, directors Jill Culton and Roger Allers, and co-director Anthony Stacchi. In addition, it contains two deleted scenes that are still in story sketch form. There is an animated short called Boog and Elliot's Midnight Bun Run, which is fully animated and rendered. It was either something cut from the feature or a piece of story that was cut and later animated for this DVD. It fits comfortably within the main film.

There is a music video of the tune "I Wanna Lose Control (Uh Oh)" by Deathray with visuals entirely from the feature. There's an activity called Voice-A-Rama, where you can dub other voices into four of the main characters, including voices in other languages. One very nice feature revolved around one of the most elaborate sequences in the film, the bursting dam. Using the angle button, you can watch the sequence as story sketches, layouts, animation or final rendered images.

Ringtales are short, drawn animated gags with the film's characters. There are three of these. Finally, there are galleries of environments, characters and beat boards that include the names of the artists whose work is on screen.

The galleries showcase what an attractive film this is. The art direction and design are probably the film's strongest features. It excels in other areas such as modeling, textures and rigging. Boog is a very flexible and believably furry bear. It's too bad that the story and characterizations don't live up to the visuals.

This is only Imageworks' first film, so the studio has the potential to grow. Their next film is called Surf's Up, and there are two trailers and a gallery of characters for that featured on this DVD. One can only hope that Imageworks creates more memorable characters and fresher stories in their future outings.

DVD Features: 1.85:1 aspect ratio; English, French and Spanish audio tracks; English, French and Spanish subtitles; Region 1.

DVD Extras: Filmmakers commentary; Behind the Trees—The Making of Open Season and The Voices Behind the Stars featurettes; Voice-A-Rama; Boog and Elliot's Midnight Bun Run short; "Wheel of Fortune" Forest Edition game; music video; deleted scenes; art gallery; beat boards.
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