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Second-hand Lions: "HAVEN'T I SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE?"
on April 13, 2006
They say Hollywood is a "race for second place," so you might say that DISNEY'S "THE WILD" is first to be second. Talking animals from an NYC zoo, ending up in an exotic foreign place, facing their fears to become better...talking animals. If this sounds familiar you may have already seen it DREAMWORKS' MADAGASCAR released less than a year ago. I'm not pointing fingers here, Disney has been supposedly working on this for 9 years, but THE WILD comes across as a "second-hand lion," watered down and "toothless."
The only differences, apart from the film and production company names, are style and voice casting. Whereas MADAGASCAR'S visual style is more cartoonish, THE WILD's approach is ultra-realistic in details. While Madagascar had characters voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and David Schwimmer, the voice casting for THE WILD is up to Disney's high standards: Respected leader SAMSON (guess HIS species) is voiced by Kiefer Sutherland , street savy Benny the Squirrel by Jim Belushi, dim-witted Larry the Snake by Richard Kind (of "the Producers") and Janeane Garofalo as Bridget the Giraffe. Don Cherry, Canadian hockey announcer cameos as the penguin MC. One possible breakout character is Nigel the British kolala, voiced by Eddie Fizzard, trying to shed his cuddly image, later becoming idol to a pack of wildebeests along with their choreographing leader dancing to the beat of different drum, Kazar, voiced brilliantly-straight by William Shatner (who provides voice for another animated animal in the upcoming "Over the Hedge.")
The WILD'S Director Steve Williams and producer Clint Goldman helped to revolutionize CG character animation during their long association with ILM ("The Mask," "Jurassic Park," "Terminator 2"), and were responsible for the popular Blockbuster commercials featuring Carl the rabbit and Ray the guinea pig. The film is scored by Academy-nominated composer Alan Silvestri ( known for the" Back to the Future Trilogy," and "Polar Express"), the soundtrack is also filled with familiar tunes by such r recording artists EVERLIFE, COLDPLAY, LIFEHOUSE, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Other new material provided by ex-"Monty Python" member Eric Idle and fellow songwriter John Du Prez, the team responsible for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "SPAMALOT" writing and performing the song, "Really Nice Day" for THE WILD.
As the animals embark on a dangerous journey to rescue one of their own, THE WILD, like its DREAMWORKS counterpart, is suitable for children with themes of teamwork, friendship and father-son relationships ( Samson's son's desire to get out of his father's shadow and have his own adventures). Overall it comes down to this: If you haven't seen MADAGASCAR you will enjoy this film infinitely more.