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Strange Wilderness 

I anticipated seeing Strange Wilderness largely because I’d heard so little about it. A comedy this under the radar had a chance at real countercultural bite. 

Alas, the latest from Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison doesn’t even rise to the lowbrow charms of most stoner comedies. Rather than being lovable idiots, the characters in Strange Wilderness are hateable. The film replaces the goofball innocence that might have redeemed it with cynicism. And the movie isn’t sharp enough---it’s not commenting on anything---to get away with that kind of mean streak. 

When a hokey aspiring Steve Irwin-type named Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn) has his animal program jeopardized by big-budget competitors, he and his crew rush to Ecuador to get the first live footage of Bigfoot. 

There’s no reason to prefer Peter’s company to his rivals’ except that they’re the subjects of the movie. The bad vibes sent off by this misguidedly violent film are a far cry from the goodwill of Happy Madison’s Grandma’s Boy---a stoner DVD-hit at once dirty and benevolent. Strange Wilderness’s grungy look is interrupted by lush helicopter shots of jungles that are so unfitting they’re probably outtake footage from Apocalypse Now. Once in the wild kingdom the film breaks into a series of disconnected joke set-ups. This isn’t always a sign of a cheap script---it’s common for many comedies.

But this time, it’s all just to excuse fallback animal-attack gags. Any movie in which Steve Zahn gets hospitalized because of a prolonged forced blowjob by a turkey should at least give him the dignity of making it funny.


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