Strange Wilderness
Paramount // R // $29.99 // April 14, 2009
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 7, 2009
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I've already written two really negative reviews today, so I thought I'd try to kick this one off by finding something nice to say. So, um, say something good about Strange Wilderness...something positive.... Oh! Peter Dante gets gobbled up by a shark pretty early on, so I didn't have to suffer through his atonal, bleating laugh for, like, another hour. That counts, right? I really did think that I'd built up kind of a resistance to shitball comedies. I mean, I made it through The Love Guru -and- Disaster Movie and managed to walk away in one piece. Doesn't matter. Strange Wilderness is still in the running as the single worst comedy -- maybe the single worst movie, period -- from the class of '08.

Steve Zahn takes the reins as Peter, a double-digit IQ stoner who took over his father's long-running nature show after the old man keeled over. He and his crew ran Strange Wilderness straight into the ground, though, and unless they can muster something in the next couple of weeks to jack up the ratings, Jeff Garlin's gonna give the show the axe. But hey...! Jon Don Baker stumbled onto Bigfoot's stomping grounds in Ecuador, and he'll fork over a map if the price is right. The plan's to pile the crew (Jonah Hill, Ashley Scott, Justin Long, Kevin Heffernan, and Happy Madison mainstays Peter Dante and Allan Covert) into an RV, shoot a few episodes along the way, and make local nature programming history by scoring the best Bigfoot footage this side of Harry and the Hendersons. C'mon, though, it's a road movie -- kinda -- so there hafta be all sorts of wacky, madcap hijinks, right? Right?!

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not really. Strange Wilderness is pretty much eightysomething minutes of pot-'n-wiener jokes, and they're not even good pot'-n-wiener jokes. This is a flick whose most elaborate gag -- a turkey that grabs hold of Peter's peter and won't let go -- starts off by ripping Super Troopers off wholesale and builds up to a Hello Nurse masturbating its neck. If I accidentally made that sound funny, I double-pinky-swear that it's not. One recurring gag has Cooker (Jonah Hill) whacking guys in the cock with a joy buzzer, another scene is just the crew pointing out for, like, five minutes that a guy's name is "Dick", and...yeah, that's pretty much Strange Wilderness' sense of humor boiled down to a few words. It's kind of hard to picture that there was an actual script behind any of this; the sarcastic-finger-quotes "comedy" sounds completely off-the-cuff, but these aren't Apatow-grade actors who can pull off that sort of thing. You do get forty year old, faux-Animal Kingdom-style 16mm footage with voiceovers like "monkeys make up over 80% of the monkey population", though, so I guess that's something.

Even with a runtime that doesn't manage to break the 80 minute mark minus credits, Strange Wilderness feels like I'm watching The Decalogue or something. There's no momentum screaming along with too, too many scenes running at least twice as long they ought to, and more than a couple of actors kind of just disappear when it seems like they're gonna have actual parts to play in this whole thing. Whatever. Look, I'm not some pretentious critic who's typing this out in, like, a smoking jacket with a pipe clenched in my teeth or something. I like stupid comedies. (I like stupid everything.) If you catch me at the right time, I might even 'fess up to digging at least parts of Grandma's Boy. No. Strange Wilderness is borderline-unwatchable, so I'll leave it at that and stop now. Skip It.

Strange Wilderness looks okay in high-def, but it's kinda dragged down by the no-budget photography. The scope image is softer and grainier than usual for a studio comedy, to the point where a few scattered shots don't even look like they're in focus. Definition and all is still pretty solid, though, and it's definitely a leg up over anything DVD could hope to churn out. Eh, there's not much point in rambling on about it. Okay. Not great. But pretty good.

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Strange Wilderness is packing an awfully bland 24-bit Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Up until the show's crew sets up shop in the jungle, the rears are almost completely lifeless. They're so subdued that I even stopped at one point to make sure some speaker wire didn't get jostled out somewhere down the line. The mix takes a couple of swigs of caffeine once the backdrop does eventually shift to South America, with plenty of critters skittering around and...y'know, a whole arsenal of semiautomatic weapons blasting away. There's some thumpin' bass in the music in Strange Wilderness' soundtrack, although the subwoofer is kind of just twiddling its thumbs for most of the flick. Oh well. At least the dialogue comes through alright. The sound design comes across as kind of an afterthought, and it's low key even for this sort of should've-been-direct-to-video-grade comedy.

Also tacked on here is a Dolby Digital dub in Spanish. Subtitle streams are served up in English (traditional and SDH), French, and Spanish.

'Snot much piled on here, but hey! That just means I get to move on with my life that much faster. All of these extras are in standard definition only, just in case you're keeping score at home.

First up are three snippets of behind-the-scenes footage. "Cooker's Song" (6 min.) breezes through an unlistenable acoustic number Jonah Hill improvises in the RV, "The Turkey" (7 min.) takes a peek at the stunt turkey latched onto Steve Zahn's dong, and "What Do We Do?" (6 min.) is a stack of riffs with the Strange Wilderness crew rattling off other potential celebrity guest hosts. Blah.

"Reel Comedy: Strange Wilderness" (21 min.) is a promotional piece hammered out for Comedy Central, piling together behind the scenes footage, long, long clips from the flick, and interviews with the cast as they pal around with a bunch of critters at a wildlife reserve or something. It's just a twentysomething minute commercial for the movie, really.

Finally, the reel of deleted and extended scenes clocks in at a laughless 22 minutes. There are even more interviews for an animal handler, including Krista Allen collecting another paycheck as a couple of guys drool over her boobs, Junior showing off even more of his ink, Cheryl smoothing things over with a gaggle of federales, and another Wild Kingdom riff with beavers.

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The Final Word
Not that I'm not proud of this or anything, but I did laugh a couple of times tearing through Strange Wilderness, so I guess that means it's only the second worst comedy I've suffered through this year. (Disaster Movie isn't forking over the top spot anytime soon.) So, um, Skip It.

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