There are far too many of these movies these days. Open Season is the latest in a long string of computer animated films that feature talking animals. While the animation is cute and the voice actors somewhat entertaining, the plot is far too formulaic and predictable. That said, if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief and your discerning critical eye (or perhaps if you’re just accompanying some young children to a cheap Sunday matinee), you can still find some enjoyment in Open Season.

Featuring the voice talents of Martin Lawrence (as Boog the Bear), Ashton Kutcher (of Punk’d and That 70s Show) Debra Messing (of Will and Grace fame), Patrick Warburton (perhaps best known as “Putty” from Seinfeld), Gary Sinise (CSI: NY), Jon Favreau (multi-millionaire and Monica’s boyfriend Pete Becker from Friends) and so on, Open Season — like so many talking-animal animated films before it — brings out the big well-known “real” actors to do the voices of bears, deer, beavers, and a porcupine who won’t stop creeping me out with “buuuuuuddddyyyy”.

The premise of the movie is simple: we have a bear (Boog) that was rescued as a young cub by a park ranger (the town reminds me a little of Ketchikan, Alaska for some reason). He grows up to perform for tourists in an outdoor theatre (which looks a lot like some of the stages atop Grouse Mountain), riding on a unicycle and the like. Some less than favorable things happen and the ranger (voiced by Debra Messing) is forced to return Boog to the wild. Problem is, it’s “open season” in a couple of days. Boog befriends Elliot (voiced by Ashton Kutcher), a small, somewhat insecure deer, they try to find their way back to town, and some other random events occur along the way.

I found the animation a little strange. Certain parts — like Boog’s fur — are eerily realistic, while others — like the human characters’ faces — are incredibly cartoony and artificial. This was a strange blend that I never really digested.

Some voices fit the characters; others did not. I think Gary Sinise did a wonderful job as the crazed Shaw, a hunter with a mission to prevent the forthcoming animal revolution, which would see the reversal of roles between animals and humans. Ashton Kutcher was entertaining, Debra Messing acceptable, but the “star” of the show — Martin Lawrence as Boog — just didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s because every time Boog spoke, I “saw” the less than huge (and inherently non-threatening) Martin Lawrence. Don’t get me wrong, I like him fine as a comedic actor, but maybe he should stick to live action.

The take-home message here, of course, is that animals are good (and belong
in the wild, not in captivity), friendship should always come first,
and hunting (and hunters) are bad, very bad. In the end, if you’re not looking for a “thinking” or “action” movie and are willing to put up with lots of predictability and somewhat flat characters, you could very well enjoy Open Season with its quirky lines and colorful animation.

Grade: B-