Synopsis
Boog is living the perfect life. In the tranquil town of Timberline, the genial grizzly bear enjoys all manner of creature comforts, courtesy of his surrogate mother, Beth, the kindhearted forest ranger who rescued him as a cub. Boog relishes the perks of fame as the star of Beth’s nature shows in the town’s amphitheatre. Elliot is a scrawny, fast-talking mule deer who arrives in town unconscious, missing an antler and strapped to the hood of a truck belonging to fanatical hunter Shaw. When Elliot awakes, he begs Boog to untie him. Boog finds Elliot’s rapid fire pleas hard to ignore, and he releases the hapless mule deer. Elliot tracks Boog down to his home and lures him out for a crazy night on the town. The bender which results in both of them being relocated to the forest. Boog awakens in the wilderness, to find himself far from the comforts of home. Like a fish out of water 'the wild' is alien territory for him. And it's about to get worse because it's the start of Open Season. The hunters are moving in to the forrest.
What The Critics Say
"Though hardly the first animated film to tackle the plight of domesticated animals returning to the wild, Open Season is a witty, warmly crafted chestnut that reps a promising feature debut from Sony's upstart toon division."
Justin Chang VARIETY
"The stylized character design is witty and pleasing; these creatures not only look but move funny."
John Beifuss COMMERCIAL APPEAL MEMPHIS
"A fun rollicking movie that'll have you rolling in your seats."
Ross Anthony HOLLYWOOD REPORT CARD
"One of the biggest surprises in this first full-length film from Sony Pictures Animation is how funny Ashton Kutcher is as Elliot."
Nancy Churnin DALLAS MORNING NEWS
"A fun story thanks to animals going 'wild' in a convenience store, cagey squirrels, and the wacky things you can do with rabbits. If it's open season on laughs, this movie bags almost the limit."
Cherryl Dawson and Leigh Ann Palone THEMOVIECHICKS.COM
"...a computer-animated tale best suited for the pre-teen demographic, yet there are enough genuine, high-energy laughs to amuse viewers of just about any age."
Todd Jorgenson DENTON RECORD CHRONICLE
"A story that balances gentle messages with enough goofy anarchy to please any kid."
Elizabeth Weitzman NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
"The animation is pleasing and Billy Connolly gives a hilarious turn as a loud-mouthed, bossy squirrel, who has never heard the notion that size intimidates. The humour flows naturally with the story, and Gary Sinese's paranoid hunter is a hoot as he plays his rifle barrel like a guitar. There are plenty of surprises and witty innovations in this delightful family film that is the best of the season."
Louise Keller URBAN CINEFILE
"..Open Season could hardly be better, generating real interest and audience sympathy. And the storyline carries built-in intrigue."
Kim Williamson BOXOFFICE MAGAZINE
"Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher may seem like an odd-sounding comedy team, but in some weird way, they click as voice-actors and cartoon buddies in "Open Season," the first feature from Sony Pictures Animation. Though "Open Season" is no "Shrek" or "Ice Age," it gets laughs too. It's capable of giving at least the kid part of the audience a good hunter-trashing, bunny-bashing time."
Michael Wilmington CHICAGO TRIBUNE
The Inside Story
The genesis for Sony Pictures Animation's first ever animated family film came from acclaimed cartoonist Steve Moore, well known for his wry syndicated comic strip "In the Bleachers". "I got the idea for Open Season from stories I’d read about these wild animals who would become somewhat domesticated by living in the outskirts of mountain resort towns like Ketchum, Idaho or Mammoth in California," says Moore. "One day the animals would invariably do something to seriously annoy the townspeople and they would be tranquilized and moved to the wilderness. I always wondered what happened once they were dropped off in the wild, having lived on leftovers most of their lives. How did they survive in the woods? That simple thought saw Moore joining forces with his producing partner John Carls to compile a stack of Moore's wonderfully funny cartoons and a story treatment which they then took to newly formed, Sony Animation. Executive vice presidents Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins then asked the two to flesh out the story and expanded their treatment. That treatment would become the first feature film for Sony Pictures Animation. The treatment next went to Jill Culton. Culton, whose credits include "Monsters, Inc.", "A Bug’s Life" and "Toy Story", not only has a love for the outdoors, she just happens to be a fan of Moore's work. "I have always been attracted to Steve's humor," Culton says. "He shows us an alternate reality, a world where the animals are smarter than we are, and behind our backs, they’re mooning us!" Culton signed on as one of three of the films directors. Sharing the directing duties with Culton are Anthony Stacchi ("Curious George", "Antz" and "James and the Giant Peach") and veteran Roger Allers who had previously co-directed the Academy Award® winning blockbuster "The Lion King". Culton and Stacchi added the villian hunter Shaw, voiced by "CSI: NY" star Gary Sinise to the storyline. So did their screenplay remain faithful to the original treatment of Moore and Carls? "Even as the story evolved," says Culton, "it still remained what it was originally, a buddy comedy with a twist, about animals who become empowered by fighting back against the hunters." Adds Stacchi: "Steve gave us a great tone and a ‘real’ situation for the characters, wild animals caught between our world and the wilderness; and Jill and I worked to find a simple emotional story to exploit it." One huge challenge they faced was to keep the storyline moving forward while mamaintaining the humorous aspect of the film. "The humor had to actually grow out of the characters, their natures and their situations," says Allers. And how did they attain that? "We had only one rule when it came to tone or humor," Stacchi explained. "It had to make us laugh and push the characters and the story forward. We wanted to make a movie we would love to see, rather than a movie solely for children or another demographic." I for one, am sure that everyone will think the animals in "Open Season" are great fun, but, they will love Boog the Bear and his sidekick Elliot the Mule Deer. Boog is living the high life in the garage of Park Ranger Beth. Raised from a little cub, he is now a full sized 410kg (900 pound) adult Bear. Everything changes when Elliot comes into his life. "Elliot’s a loser and he’s desperate for friendship," says Allers. "He gloms onto Boog and makes Boog’s life miserable, precipitating a series of events that forces Ranger Beth to relocate Boog to the woods."
Now that move provides a real shock for the loveable Boog. Voicing Boog is the popular star of "Big Momma's House 1 & 2", Martin Lawrence. The voice of Elliot is provided by the star of "Just Married" and "The Guardian", Ashton Kutcher. These two are perfect matches for their animated characters. "We reviewed many different voices, and finally, when we paired Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher, lightning struck," co-director Jill Culton recalls. "Martin brought this terrific smooth swagger and confidence to Boog, and Ashton’s playful, manic energy was perfect for Elliot." "One of the things I particularly loved was the different tempo in the voices of Martin and Ashton," adds Allers. "When they meet in Boog’s garage, Ashton as Elliot is a little hyper, he’s like 'Look at this! Oh, wow, this is cool! Look at that!' As Boog, Martin is a little bit slower at processing things; he’s like 'Hey, wait, that’s my bed! Hey, no, get out of there! I just love the sassiness of the Elliot character pitted against the innocence and the stodginess of Boog." "When we first began the casting process, we laid Martin’s voice recording over drawings of Boog, and the warmth, the deepness and the resonance of his voice convinced us that he could fill this giant bear body," adds Stacchi. "And Ashton’s voice fit perfectly into the character of this tiny, scrawny little mule deer. His comic energy goes well with Elliot’s erratic, all over the place personality." Evidently, the creative team marveled at how Ashton Kutcher utilized his boyish charm, infectious energy and charisma to find countless ways of delivering the same line, employing a different spin on each take. Kutcher has certaily made Elloit a loveable little rascal.
What They Had To Say
"Boog is a 900-pound grizzly with no bear skills. He’s never been in the woods," Martin explains. "He’s domesticated and living in the lap of luxury in Park Ranger Beth's garage. He’s the star of the 'Wild Life Show' in town and he’s just loving it all. He starts out as a cuddly, lovable bear, who one day realizes he has no real grizzly-bear skills."
"I met with the filmmakers and they showed us the concept art of what the characters looked like. They already had the story laid out and storyboards to go with it. As they took me through the story, it gave me a lot of confidence," says Kutcher. "It showed how much preparation had gone into the project before a single frame had even been shot."
"Gary is a kind of buttoned-down, serious actor," observes Allers. "He approached Shaw in stages, increasing and accelerating the wackiness until he suddenly came out with this crazy laugh that we all loved. It was great fun to watch him transform himself into a mad man with this insane laugh."
"I was very impressed with the implied cultural differences between the various species in the forest, like the Scottish squirrel," recalls the director of "Elf", John Favreau. "I wanted to add a little bit of the American sense of pride in workmanship that our construction unions tend to embody. I thought that would be really funny coming out of the mouth of a beaver."
"I’d be working on the set of ‘CSI’ all day," recalls Sinise, "looking at DNA, and checking for clues, that kind of thing. My character is pretty low-key and totally focused on his work. And then I’d drop by the sound studio and do a two-hour voice session after work and really get to release a lot of tension, which was great. The character of Shaw is big and loud and 'AARRRGGGHHH!'; he’s totally wild. It was unusual and very different from what I did all day long, and a lot of fun."
"Beth is a little over-indulgent with Boog and she does kind of treat him like a dog, which makes for a funny situation, given Boog’s size,"” says Stacchi. "When he asks her for a fishy cracker, there is a gentleness between them. When she sings him a lullaby, it is a very sweet moment. Beth's teddy bear song is really the heart of the movie."
"It wasn’t easy for me at first," Messing admits, "because I didn’t have the immediate gratification and that immediate gauge of how something was working. But that’s the way it is with movies, and there were jokes that would make me laugh on the page, so I thought, ‘Well, you can’t go wrong.’ Still, it was fun to find moments that I never envisioned as funny, or weird, or quirky, and to play around with the material and be surprised at how it turned out. That made for a great, fun experience."
"Billy Connolly added Scottish slang and phrasing to McSquizzy that we would not have guessed existed," says Donnie Long. "It was gratifying to have such an excellent Scottish actor in the role."
"When you turn up for an animated recording and you see the director, you ask yourself, 'What, does he direct? Wee squirrels on pieces of paper?', Says comedian Billy Connelly. "But then you learn that you still have to be directed in terms of reading the lines and deciding on the mood of your performance. Could you do it angrier? Could you do it happier? Could you do it slower? You wind up doing four or five versions of every line. Now, I know how necessary the directors are, but before this experience, any time I saw an animated film or cartoon, I would ask, ‘What does the director do? Does he wait for Donald Duck to turn up? Tell him to go into makeup and get some powder on his beak?’ Not anymore. Now I bloody well know."
The Verdict
"It's Sony Animations first release and it's a pretty good effort. The voice casting is excellent with Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, Debra Messing, Gary Sinise and Billy Connelly leading the voice cast list. The animated humans and forrest creatures are very well done and the storyline zips along at a steady pace. There are some memorable and very funny moments watching Boog adjust to life in the forrest. "Open Season" really hots up when the hunters arrive and the animals rally behind Boog in a fight for survival. Kids and adults alike will find Boog and Elliot a lot of fun to watch. Let's hope they make a sequel. Fun for all ages. Will make an ideal family day out at the local cinema. 3 1/2 STARS."
Cast & Crew Bytes
"OPEN SEASON" stars .......
Martin Lawrence
["National Security", "Bad Boys II" and "Big Momma's House 1 & 2"]; Ashton Kutcher ["The Butterfly Effect", "Guess Who" and "The Guardian"]; EMMY Award winner Debra Messing ["The Mothman Prophecies", "Along Came Polly", "Garfield" and "The Wedding Date"]; Jon Favreau ["Made", "Daredevil", "Elf" and "The Break-Up"], Drama Desk Award winner & Disabled American Veterans Commander Award winner Gary Sinise ["Snake Eyes", "The Green Mile", "Reindeer Games" and "The Forgotten"] and Billy Connelly ["Who Is Cletis Tout?", "White Oleander", "The Last Samurai" and "Garfield 2"] as McSquizzy.
"OPEN SEASON" was .......
casting by Mary Hidalgot
["A Bug's Life", "Monsters Inc.", "Lilo & Stitch", "Finding Nemo", "Home On The Range", "Team America: World Police" and "The Incredibles"] and Ruth Lambert ["The Emperor's New Groove", "Monsters Inc.", "Lilo & Stitch" and "The Ant Bully"]; screenplay by Steve Bencich ["Brother Bear" and "Chicken Little "]; Ron J Friedman ["Brother Bear" and "Chicken Little "] and Nat Mauldin ["Downtown", "The Preacher’s Wife", "Dr Dolittle" and "The In-Laws"]; edited by Ken Solomon ["Revenge of the Red Baron" and "Man Of The Year"] and Pam Ziegenhagen ["The Emperor's New Groove"]; original score by Ramin Djawadi ["Thunderbirds", "Blade: Trinity", "Buffalo Dreams" and "Ask The Dust"] production design by Michael Humphries ["Tom and Jerry: The Movie"] and produced by Michelle Murdocca ["Stuart Little 1 & 2"].
Run Time 86 minutes
Rated G [AUST]
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