Friday, November 6, 2009

A Decade of Dreck #4: Strange Wilderness

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

Strange Wilderness is a movie from Adam Sandler's production company Happy Madison, the same people responsible for bringing you Joe Dirt, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Paul Blartt: Mall Cop. Even worse, the movie is brought to you by Allen Covert, who is responsible for the 2006 cinematic atrocity known as Grandma's Boy. My friends and I watched Grandma's Boy in college, and the sheer inhumanity of that film put our apartment in a funk for days. That night, the campus experienced a power outage, as if God had seen our sin and revoked our privilege to use electricity.

Grandma's Boy, unfortunately, is at least ten times as good as Strange Wilderness.

I am not a comedy snob. It doesn't take much to entertain me. I have seen EuroTrip more times than I can count, and I actually spent money to see She's the Man. I had mildly optimistic hopes for Strange Wilderness. It's a stoner comedy about a film crew trying to find Bigfoot. Read that sentence again. That's right. Stoners. Bigfoot. By all rights, this should be hilarious. So where does it go so horribly horribly wrong?

Well, for one thing, the characters are cruel and inherently unlikeable. The best stoner comedies of the decade - Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Pineapple Express - feature protagonists that, while baked out of their minds, approach life with a carefree attitude. In the Cheech and Chong tradition, they seem like fun guys to hang out with. But the characters in Strange Wilderness don't have this inherent likability. While puffing on joints and drinking beer, they sit around and laugh at the unemployed, at women, at Hispanics, at a man getting eaten by an alligator. I'm not a prude. If offensive jokes are funny, you can get away with a lot. Unfortunately, these jokes are not funny. Stoners (on film, at least) are supposed to be laid back, apathetic dudes. These stoners are manic, hyperactive, and tragically lacking in any sense of humor.

Strange Wilderness centers around Peter, the host of a late night nature show which is in danger of cancellation. In a last ditch effort to save the show, he decides to take his crew to drive down to Ecuador(?), to capture footage the elusive Bigfoot. Naturally, shenanigans ensue.

There are several plot holes that I really shouldn't even bring up, but I can't resist. For one, why would a nature show hosted by stoners get such abysmal ratings? I would watch a show like this all the time, and I don't think I'm alone. Secondly, why is Bigfoot in Ecuador?

I legitimately laughed twice during Strange Wilderness. The first joke involved a man named "Dick", with no last name, at which point a character inquires, "Like Cher? But Dick?" This is not funny, per se, but was at least nonsensical enough to merit a chuckle from me. The second time is a joke already ruined by the trailer, but is honestly hilarious. Go to 0:33 in this video to experience the funniest gag in the movie.

The only other laughter I found in his movie comes from the casting. Chronic masturbator and Charge Shot!!! favorite Ernest Borgnine, plays a supporting character who is pretty funny. This is not due to any comic writing, but simply because I find the concept of a nonagenarian actor saying "Numb nuts" and making bong jokes hilarious, and it looks like Borgnine is having more fun than any other actor in this movie. Jeff Garlin, by contrast, looks to be eying for an escape hatch in every scene he's in, which is funny in its own right. And the presence of Joe Don Baker in any movie merits a laugh from me.

But that's the best Strange Wilderness has to offer - real actors looking confused as to how they ended up at this point. With the exception of Borgnine hamming it up, it's a chore to watch. According to Rotten Tomatoes, not a single critic gave this movie a positive review. Let me add my thumbs down to the list.

Strange Wilderness is ranked #7 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 0% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.