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Alpha and Omega
A thoroughly uninspired animated effort, "Alpha and Omega" doesn't head anywhere Disney, Dreamworks, or a thousand Saturday morning cartoons haven't already been. A routine tale of anthropomorphized animals, slapstick, and forbidden love, the picture fails to offer enough weirdness or wit to keep chaperones awake, while kids deserve a more engaging afternoon babysitter -- a feature with some genuine life to it, not just the family film basics.
Inside a Canadian forest, Humphrey (voiced by Justin Long) is a carefree omega wolf, spending his days pallin' around with his friends and dreaming of Kate (Hayden Panettiere), an alpha wolf with major responsibilities ahead of her. With two opposing wolf packs near war, leaders Tony (Dennis Hopper, in his final role) and Winston (Danny Glover, slowly losing his battle with the letter S) arrange for Kate to enter a special marriage with star wolf Garth (Chris Carmack), whom she doesn't love. Before plans can be set in motion, Kate and Humphrey are drugged by wildlife officials and relocated to Idaho, in hopes that the two wolves will help repopulate the area. Fearing chaos has erupted at home, Humphrey and Kate look to escape their new surroundings, while the time spent together reveals unexpectedly tender feelings between the furry pair.
Assembled in India under the watch of directors Ben Gluck and Anthony Bell, "Alpha and Omega" is a woeful budget animation title, picked up by Lionsgate to compete in the CG-animated box office race. It's a bland, nothing motion picture, playing as comfortably as it can to appease undiscerning younger viewers with a routine of shenanigans and sleepy dramatics, realized through blocky, rigid animation that doesn't feel very special standing in the shadows of industry giants.
To overcome monetary limitations, all "Alpha and Omega" needed was a shot of creativity in the screenplay department to bring it to life. Unfortunately, the writing is slack and lacks personality, with much of the script devoted to colorless elements of conflict and comedy, despite an invitation to take the road trip concept to far more appealing places. Welcome oddity only breaks up the monotony intermittently, coming in the form of a golf-playing goose that helps the wolves with directions and a mating sequence early in the picture that finds the wild animals enjoying some song and dance before the carnal delights begin. "Alpha and Omega" needed more of the bizarre to keep it engaging, and less of the moronic, pandering scripting, which often involves bodily fluids and crotch-wallop jokes to tickle the wee ones.
While far from a Disney or Dreamworks release, the AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation on "Alpha" conveys the film's budget animation look just fine. Animal details are comfortable throughout, showing off the blocky creations with ease, though environmental changes are more vivid, providing additional textures to enjoy. Colors are vibrant and evocative, communicating the forest feel of the picture with accelerated greens and blues. Characters also benefit from diverse hues, helping performances stick out further. Shadow detail is supportive, supplying a nice feel for moonlit adventures. Obviously, this isn't the most stunning animation around, but the BD captures the intended spark of silliness.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is charmingly active, delivering the family film mood with a circular push of cartoon antics. Location nuances provide reassuring directional hold, with active water and tree movement, blended well with scoring cues. The picture's rare step into soundtrack selections offers some low-end response, along with the crash and bang of comedic violence. Voices are crisply prepared, kept frontal for maximum clarity, though a few of the group scenes provide a welcome fullness of verbal activity. Spanish and French tracks are also available.
English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
"Making Of" (20:57) is a professional summary of the production effort, using interviews with cast and crew to explore how the characters were designed and animated, along with a look inside the sound booth to spy the actors at work. Fans of Dennis Hopper might be interested in this featurette, which highlights the legend in action for the final time.
"Wolves in the Wild" (13:10) showcases the furry stars in an educational featurette that ticks off wolf facts and figures, hoping to impart a better understanding of the creatures and their delicate habitat. Also discussed is how the production wove natural wolf behaviors into the cartoon elements of the film.
"Deleted Scene" (1:06) is a lone look at Humphrey's misguided attempt to howl at the moon.
"Animal Fun Facts" is a sparse pop-up trivia track that runs throughout the film.
"Log Sliding Game" is a "choose your trail" game asking players to find a perfect path for our heroes to barrel through.
"Are You an Alpha or an Omega?" is a personality test designed to separate players into two groups for maximum humiliation.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
"Alpha and Omega" is best appreciated, or endured, as a rainy day diversion, forced upon kids with nothing better to do, with milk-money rental rates that keep expectations comfortably low.