Strange Wilderness

2008, Movie, R, 87 mins

Review

STRANGE WILDERNESS
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You'd have to be more than merely intoxicated to find anything about this dismal stoner comedy remotely funny. You'd have to be unconscious.

Once upon a time, "Strange Wilderness" was the top-rated nature show on TV, but ever since the death of its popular host the show's ratings -- and quality -- has been in freefall. The original host's son, Peter Gaulke (Steven Zahn), has taken up his father's mantle, but Peter has no discernible knowledge of animals, and his onscreen narration is full of gross misinformation ("Bears derive their name from a football team in Chicago"), grosser jokes and pure nonsense ("Monkeys make up more than 80 percent of the world's monkey population"). Aside from veteran cameraman Milas (Ernest Borgnine), Peter's crew -- soundman Fred Wolf (Allen Covert), PA Cooker (Jonah Hill), driver Danny Guiterrez (Peter Dante) -- is entirely incompetent. Making the situation even worse, KPIP TV executive Ed Lawson (Jeff Garlin) has bounced the show from its usual 7 pm time slot to the wee hours of the morning, and Lawson giving them an ultimatum: If they don't come up with something big -- really big -- in the next two weeks, he's canceling the show. Lawson already has wilderness superstar Sky Pierson (Harry Hamlin) waiting in the wings. Luckily for Peter, something really big unexpectedly falls right in his lap: His dad's old friend, Bill Calhoun (Joe Don Baker), surfaces after years in the Ecuadorian wilderness with photos of a real-life Sasquatch, and offers to sell Peter the map to Big Foot's cave. Peter knows capturing Big Foot on camera is the coup he needs to save the show, so he takes on Calhoun's niece, Cheryl (Ashley Scott), as an assistant, hires an alcoholic auto mechanic (Kevin Hefferman) to serve as animal handler, replaces Milas -- who claims he's too old to make the journey -- with his chronically stoned nephew, Junior (Justin Long), and points the "Strange Wilderness" RV south. Along the long, tortuous route to South America, Peter and his crew shoot footage for future episodes of the show featuring the local fauna, all of it accompanied by Peter's "expert" narration.

Granted, humor is subjective, but there are certain things we can all agree aren't funny. A young woman forced to trade sex with a psycho Vietnam vet (Robert Patrick) with mangled scrotum in order to retrieve a stolen map is one of them. Vomiting into a shark's mouth is another -- it's certainly weird, but it's not funny -- while making fun of the way Mexicans speak English is a third. The screenplay, written by the lead characters' real-life counterparts, Peter Gaulk and director Fred Wolf, is a compendium of jokes that don't work and Farrelly Brothers style gags that sicken instead of amuse (the extended bit involving a turkey and Peter's peter is particularly disgusting). If nothing else, the movie does serve as an excellent opportunity to think about the true nature of comedy, 'cause this sure ain't it. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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