STRANGE WILDERNESS (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 11, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“Happy Madison Productions + stoner film = Total insanity! Just a crazy film that seems very improvised and far out! Looks and sounds great on Blu-ray but as a film, it’s one of the worst Happy Madison films I have seen so far.”
2009 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Strange Wilderness
DURATION: 87 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p, English SDH Subtitled , English Subtitled , French Subtitled , Spanish Dubbed & Subtitled. Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital , 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
RATED: R for Non-Stop Language, Drug Use, Crude and Sexual Humor
COMPANY: Paramount Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2009
Directed by Steve Wolf
Written by Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf
Produced by Peter Gaulke
Executive Produced by Glenn S. Gainor, Jackie Giarraputo, Edward Milstein, Erin Newell, Adam Sandler, Paul Schwake and Bill Todman Jr.
Music by Waddy Watchtel
Director of Photography: David Hennings
Edited by Tom Costain
Production Design by Perry Andelin Blake
Set Decoration by Claire Kaufman
Costume Design by Maya Lieberman
Steve Zahn as Peter
Allen Covert as Fred
Jonah Hill as Cooker
Kevin Hefferman as Whitaker
Ashley Scott as Cheryl
Peter Dante as Danny Gutierrez
Harry Hamlin as Sky Pierson
Robert Patrick as Gus Hayden
Joe Don Baker as Bill Calhoun
Blake Clark as Dick
Justin Long as Junior
Jeff Garln as Ed Lawson
Ernest Borgnine as Milas
Meg wolf as Judy/K-PIP Receptionist
Jason Sandler as Jason
Animal enthusiast Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn) and his sidekick Fred Wolf (Allen Covert) host an ailing wildlife TV show “Strange Wilderness,” which is in a steep ratings decline. Desperate to save the show, Peter hatches a Hail Mary scheme to find the one animal that could truly turn the show around and change the nature-show landscape forever – Bigfoot.
Probably the most surprising film to come from Happy Madison Productions. Moronic characters, moronic plot but for fans who know what to expect from Happy Madison type of films, prepare yourself because I don’t think anyone will ever see anything like it.
In 2008, Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison Productions released a film that many people have called possibly one of the worst films ever created. In fact, it’s one of the few films that when released, had all negative reviews by critics and at this time, has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Suffice to say, the film which cost $5 million to make, definitely made its money back and more at the Box Office and through DVD sales.
“STRANGE WILDERNESS” is directed and co-written by Fred Wolf (“Without a Paddle”, “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” and “Joe Dirt”) with co-writer Peter Gaulke (“Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “Saturday Night Live”) and some like to call it a stoner film, some like to call it a wilderness movie but whatever one may want to classify this film, the film’s plot is definitely…far out.
The film is about a television show known as “STRANGE WILDERNESS” which is hosted by Peter (Steve Zahn), the son of a man who ran a successful show similar to “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”. Together with his friend Fred (Allen Covert), both men tend to reuse footage from the 70’s and tend to focus on animals mating or topics that are very odd such as the burning of protestors and in one case, because they didn’t have footage of women in Africa nude, they hired women to be topless and pretend they are in Africa and making fun of pygmies. Because of that, the TV station is not to happy with the guys.
The two have been called in because they are now close to being shut down. Their ratings have slid in two years and they are now a program that airs at 3:00 a.m. A new rival show hosted by Sky Pierson (Harry Hamlin) is now wanting their time slot but the “STRANGE WILDERNESS” guys will not back off. They have been given a chance to turn the show around and to do that, the guys get a map from the friend of Peter’s father to help find Bigfoot’s Lair in Ecuador.
And with not much money, both Steve and Allen bring a rag tag group of guys to become part of their film crew.
Milas (Ernest Borgnine) is the cameraman but because he’s sticking out for this trip, he has stoner Junior (Justin Long, “Live Free or Die Hard”) to operate the camera; the moronic guitar player Cookers (Jonah Hill, “Knocked Up”, “Super Bad”, etc.) as an assistant; Cheryl (Ashley Scott,”Jericho”, “Walking Tall”) as the beautiful one of the group; Danny Gutierrez (Peter Dante, “Little Nicky”, “Big Daddy”, etc.) as the driver and Whitaker (Kevin Heffernan, “The Dukes of Hazzard”, “Super Troopers) as the trying to recover from alcohol but often drunk assistant.
This group will go on a trip to brave encounters with animals and face danger along the way in order to film various animals such as a Turkey and even sharks but most of all, their goal to hunt down Bigfoot.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
One of the major highlights of “STRANGE WILDERNESS” is how good it looks and how good it sounds in 1080p High Definition.
The transfer to Blu-ray really makes “STRANGE WILDERNESS” look so beautiful. The colors are vibrant and sharp and I was ultimately pleased by the picture quality. With so much of the film shot in the outdoors and under sunny conditions and blue skies, the colors really showcase the film’s cinematography.
The film sports a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack and although the film is primarily a dialogue-based film, near the end of the film, “STRANGE WILDERNESS” suddenly uses various machine guns, gun shots and action scenes that utilize your front and rear channels especially your subwoofer. If anything, for the most part, the film is a dialogue and music driven film. But it does utilize various channels in your home theater system in different parts of the film. The film also includes a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track.
As for subtitles, the film features English English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Special features included on the “STRANGE WILDERNESS” Blu-ray disc are:
- Cooker’s Song – (5:46) One of the highlights of the film is a song written and sung by Jonah Hill (who plays Lynn Cooker) about his father and stepmother who does not like him. This is the whole song in its entirety.
- The Turkey – (6:47) One of the wildest scenes in the film features the character Peter (Steve Zahn) who is taking a leak in the wilderness and a big giant turkey latching on directly to his penis. This segment features how the scene was done and how the “removal process” was filmed.
- What Do We Do? – (6:06) In a scene where the guys brainstorm about who they will film to turn things around for the “STRANGE WILDERNESS” show, the scenes were actually improvised and the names that pop out from the guys and sexual banter shocks even Ernest Borgnine.
- Reel Comedy: Strange Wilderness – (21:14) An entertaining feature as Comedy Central’s “Reel Comedy” interviews the cast of “STRANGE WILDERNESS” and tries to find out from the stars of the film, “What is the plot of the film?”.
- Deleted Scenes: (22:13) More insane clips that ended up on the cutting floor and another guitar scene with Jonah Hill (Cooker) singing.
• Additional Scenes: Four Things
• Additional Scenes: Pete Yells at Debbie
• Additional Scenes: Judy
• Additional Scenes: Lawson
• Additional Scenes: Pet Perv
• Additional Scenes: Interviews
• Additional Scenes: Not Fans
• Additional Scenes: Cooker Song: America
• Additional Scenes: Dentist
• Additional Scenes: Immigration
• Additional Scenes: Tattooed Boobs
• Additional Scenes: Pier
• Additional Scenes: Beaver/Moose
“STRANGE WILDERNESS” has to be one of the most moronic films to ever be released in the theater, let alone to come from Happy Madison Productions and I’m a fan of even their critically panned films.
It’s quite interesting because despite the film being panned by crtitics, there are a legion of fans who absolutely love this film. Not sure if you can call it a cult hit but it’s one of the strangest films that I have ever seen. In a way, I wish there was a commentary track because I’m curious if the majority of the film was improvised (note: From watching the special features, you learn that some scenes were).
Steve Zahn (“Saving Silverman”, “Rescue Dawn”) and especially Allen Covert (“50 First Dates”, “Grandma’s Boy”, “Happy Gilmore”, “The Wedding Singer”) are Happy Madison professionals, that you are pretty much used to seeing these guys goof off and play major, crazy roles. The same can be said about Jonah Hill (“Superbad”, “Knocked Up”, “Grandma’s Boy”) but I was surprised to see the amount of talent involved with “STRANGE WILDERNESS”.
Justin Long from his Apple Mac vs. PC commercials play a stoner, Robert Patrick (“X-Files” and “Terminator 2”) as a man who has an encounter with piranhas, Harry Hamlin as the rival wilderness host, well-known actor Ernest Borgnine as the longtime cameraman and Ashley Scott (“Birds of Prey”, “Walking Tall” and “Jericho”) who brings her beauty to the film (and of course, getting all the guys in the group all revved up). All in all, an unusual group of talents working together for a film that is just totally insane.
Actually, Justin Long plays a convincing and humorous stoner. In one scene, while he’s falling asleep, his eye lids have been tattooed with eyes. So, people will think he’s awake, when actually he is sleeping. As ridiculous this may sound, it definitely got a few laughs from me.
Personally, I found the film to have a few scenes that made me laugh but certain scenes that were just so moronic that I found myself just in awe of how crazy and dumb this film truly is. A scene in which Steve has his penis gobbled up by a turkey who refuses to let go. Because the turkey has been used in an important scientific experiment, they are not allowed to kill it. Thus, a doctor and a nurse try their best to pull the turkey off. From using sexual stroking techniques to just yanking it from his penis as you see it being stretched.
Another scene features Danny Gutierrez (Peter Dante) having to wear a seal outfit and become one with nature while he is filmed with the other seals. But showing how seals are attacked by sharks and then all of a sudden, Danny is attacked by a shark with blood spewing everywhere and having to be taken to the hospital. Potty humor that will make some laugh and make some question “what the hell am I watching?”.
If anything, it’s a film that is pure moronic humor and I often use this to describe a few Happy Madison films but “STRANGE WILDERNESS” takes the cake.
But all is not bad with this Blu-ray release. The film looks and sounds great via High Definition and picture quality is actually very, very good for this film. The film utilizes really cool sound during the brief action scenes and thus, for fans of “STRANGE WILDERNESS”, it’s easy to say that this version is the definitive version to own.
All in all, “STRANGE WILDERNESS” is not a film for everyone. It has its loyal fans who appreciate its unusual and far out, moronic storyline and if you are a big fan of the film, you definitely won’t be disappointed with the Blu-ray release.
As for me, it’s probably the worst Happy Madison film that I have seen.
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