Though silly and predictable, this animated comedy has stunning visuals, a catchy soundtrack and charming characters that are family-friendly crowd-pleasers.
The great outdoors isn't so great if you're a bear and it's hunting season, so it's lucky for Boog (Martin Lawrence) that he's been fully domesticated by kindly animal trainer Beth (Debra Messing). Boog's got it good and knows it: He performs for local kiddies during the day and lives in Beth's garage, which comes complete with TV, indoor plumbing and a cushy bed — teddy bear included. But his world is flipped upside-down after he listens to the desperate pleas of Elliot (Ashton Kutcher), a mule deer who was run down by arms enthusiast Shaw (Gary Sinise) and is now missing an antler and bound to the roof of Shaw's truck. Boog reluctantly frees him, but the chatty Elliot follows him home and tries to return the favor by breaking Boog out of "captivity." He woos Boog with candy bars, and after the pair wreak havoc on a convenience store, Beth becomes convinced that Boog needs to be returned to the wild. She tranquilizes him and airlifts both bear and deer into the forest, hoping Boog is out of the vindictive Shaw's range. When Boog comes to, he's horrified: The other animals mock his lack of outdoor skills, and Elliot would rather find the doe of his dreams, Giselle (Jane Krakowski), than help Boog return to Timberline; unfortunately, as alpha deer Ian (Patrick Warburton) reminds Elliot, he has been kicked out of the herd. As Elliot and Boog search for town, they unwittingly head straight into Shaw's path. Paul Westerberg's lively soundtrack adds considerable character to the film's talking-animal hijinks, and what could have been little more than a goofy buddy comedy gains visual depth from the extraordinarily detailed backgrounds and scenery. Some of the animals are, in fact, truly adorable, and between the double entendres and the dash of scatological humor, both parents and kids should be happy. The film was released simultaneously in flat and large-format 3-D versions. leave a comment --Angel Cohn