Confused dramedy is a disappointment
Randy (Oswalt) is the scoutmaster of a struggling Boy Scout troop, which has seen its membership dwindle and the interest of those involved all but extinguished. He inherited a strong, renowned group from his father (who is now constrained to his bed in his last days) but changes in society, including competition for kids' free time and overprotective parents, have made scouting less of a draw, as the best Randy can offer kids are campouts in a parking lot. When he loses all the attendees of his latest campout to a sleepover party for his brother's adopted African son Dwande, it's the last straw. Aided by his unusual assistants Eddie and Ivan, he takes his dad and sneaks the kids away for a big camping trip into a restricted area of the woods. Considering this basically amounts to kidnapping and trespassing, suffice to say, it does not go well.
This set-up has all the makings of a classic comedy, including a crowd of foul-mouth misfit kids who would have been right at home in The Bad News Bears. But outside of some occasional absurdity (contained almost exclusively in the final quarter of the film) and the forced pairing of one flirtatious minor with Dwande's adoptive mom (Maura Tierney), there's not a lot of laughs to be found here. Sure, there are some who'll enjoy Rob Riggle's alpha-male security guard and his aggressive give-and-take with Randy's brother (Johnny Knoxville), but mostly the movie's attempts at comedy are dominated by lots of over-the-top screaming. Aside from Tierney (who manages to mostly stay out of the fray thanks to her oft-dominated character) only the late Patrice O'Neal (in his last role) really shines, making the most of a small part.
The reason it's not that funny is because it doesn't really know if that's what it wants to be. So much of the film is dramatic, focusing on Randy's fear of disappointing his father by letting his troop fall apart and the conflict between Randy and his brother. Written and directed by Todd Rohal (the man behind the divisive The Catechism Cataclysm) there's an odd lack of commitment to the drama, like every heavy moment is about to be undone by a laugh. It may be a result of a cast that's known primarily for its comedy, but it makes it very hard to buy in to what's happening on-screen. Perhaps its also somewhat a result of the disappointment of seeing such a funny cast not go for laughs, which similarly hurt the infinitely more entertaining Funny People. Either way, Nature Calls doesn't do enough good over its surprisingly scant 79 minutes to forgive its downside.
There are a few nice sound effects in the surrounds in this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, as a doorbell from off-screen caught me by surprise, but it's mostly a middle of the road presentation, with some light atmospheric work in the sides and rear, while the dialogue, which is almost entirely up-front and center, is clear and clear. You're not going to find much in terms of dynamic mixing or directionality here,
A quick three-minute outtakes reel is your average collection of screw-ups, again showing that with this cast and this crew, it doesn't seem to be a very tense set.
The final featurette is the five-minute "AXS TV: A Look at Nature Calls," this time a promo piece from the newly-rebranded HDNet, for it's sister company Magnet Films. It's a lot of the same stuff as the behind-the-scenes piece, but this time with clips from the film.
Also included are a pair of trailers for the film, as well as other releases from the studio.
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