Move over Pixar, Sony Pictures Animation has arrived! Or has it? Hmm… probably not. But while it might not have the immediate family-friendly plot or universal appeal of your average Pixar film, SPA’s first foray into the realm of computer animated films, Open Range had enough going for it to leave me smiling when I left the theater.
Boog (Martin Lawrence) is a bear who has been raised from an orphan cub by Forest Ranger Beth (Debra Messing). After a chance encounter with Elliot the deer (Ashton Kutcher), a series of misunderstandings results in Boog being released into the wild. Unfortunately, Boog is pretty much domesticated, and his journey to return to Beth is hampered not only by woodland creatures, but also the fact that hunting season is about to be unleashed upon them. Can Boog unite the animals against the hunters, and save himself from Shaw (Gary Sinise), a hunter with a personal vendetta against Boog and Elliot?
The plot is pretty straightforward, as with most animated films, and many times it’s catering to the younger elements of the audience. It’s a PG film though, so little kids might be frightened by the hunting and danger elements. Sadly, like many modern animated films, the “timelessness” of the movie is shattered by the frequent references to pop-culture, and Martin Lawrence’s little hip-hop dance at the beginning of the film actually made me cringe. However, for the most part it’s a straight-up story about friendship, looking out for others, and of course, how hunting is bad. Heh.
The music is interesting – it’s a musical, in that the original songs by Paul Westerberg (of The Replacements fame) – wrote and sings songs that move the story forward, and provide emotional reflection, much like what Ben Folds did with Over the Hedge. Westerberg also co-wrote the score with Ramin Djawadi, which was a pleasant job that served the movie well, and (if I’m not mistaken) integrates the melodies from the songs within the score.
Overall, Open Season is an entertaining animated film, with plenty to keep kids and adults amused. It’s not great, and elements of it might be dated in a few years, but it’s certainly something to take the family to see. Just keep the toddlers away.