When it comes to animation in the mid-2000s, Disney was not in a good place. Lots of things really went south for them. They had lost their deal with Pixar which ended up getting them success, they closed their traditional animation studio, and they had put out some pretty bad animated films in that time. While they did thankfully reverse some of these mistakes like buying Pixar and reopening their traditional animation studio, the movies they put out during that time still leave a dark spot on their legacy. One of these films was "The Wild". Released in 2006, this computer-animated movie was an attempt for Disney to prove they could make good computer-animated films without Pixar and it obviously didn't work. This film is such an unfunny and dreadful mess that it just left me wanting to watch a better film with a similar premise. You probably know which film I'm talking about, but let's talk about the film's story first.
In the Central Park Zoo in New York City, a lion named Samson (Keifer Sutherland) has been telling his young son Ryan (Greg Cipes) stories about his life in the wild and how brave he was there. Ryan wants to be a brave lion like his father, but his roar just isn't there yet. One night after an argument with his father, Ryan wanders out and ends up in a green box shipped to Africa and is taken from the zoo. Wanting to save his son, Samson along with a squirrel named Benny (Jim Belushi), a snake named Larry (Richard Kind), a giraffe named Bridgette (Janeane Garofalo), and a koala named Nigel (Eddie Izzard) set off into the city to rescue him. They don't save him from the boat in time, so they steal a tugboat and sail to Africa to retrieve him. When they get to Africa, things get weirder when they discover that wildebeests led by Kazar (William Shatner) are planning on changing the food chain and want to make lions their prey. I could explain what it means, but it's so ridiculous that I'd rather not.
When this film came out in 2006, a lot of critics at the time compared it unfavorably to "Madagascar" which came out the year before with some going as far as calling it a ripoff. While I usually like to look at films on their own, I have to agree with the critics at the time. The film really is a giant ripoff of "Madagascar" though not having any of the humor or charm that made it fun right down to similar aspects of the story. Like "Madagascar", this film has animals who live at the Central Park Zoo with one wanting to leave the zoo and experience the wild, the other animals realizing the mistake decide to go after him and all end up in Africa where something crazy emerges. It even just so happens to have a lion and a giraffe like "Madagascar" though it trades a zebra, a hippo, and some penguins for a snake, a koala, and a squirrel. However, the story is nowhere near as good as that film because it is just so painfully unfunny and insanely uninteresting. The film goes through the notions very quickly and doesn't seem to take the time to breathe or rest. It's always on fast forward and it gets annoying after awhile. Throughout the first two acts of the film, it was just painfully predictable while the third act is just so bizarre and weird and they clash that by the end of the film, it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Though the worst aspect of this film is the humor. It is painfully unfunny. Every joke is a dud and not one made me laugh, chuckle, or even smile. Some of the jokes are so stupid that they could've been fixed easily. For example, when the animals leave the zoo, they hitch a ride on a garbage truck, Larry accidentally ends up on the hood of the truck and the driver screams leaving the truck "The garbage! It lives!" Not only does the joke make no sense, but it's also incredibly stupid. They could've just fixed that joke by having him yell "Snake!" instead. As far as the animation goes, it's very unimpressive. Despite the film being directed by a visual effects artist who worked on films that had great effects like "The Abyss", "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", and "Jurassic Park", this film looked amazingly bland and somewhat ugly. The character designs leaned more towards being realistic and they just came off looking very ugly and unappealing with the characters fur sometimes going all over the place. Also, the environments look very fake with the plants in Africa looking like plastic and even New York City looking amazingly dull, and empty. There's no sign of human activity in the city at night when they get there with Times Square looking as empty as that scene in "Vanilla Sky". Also, all the human characters mostly are kept off-camera and their faces aren't shown which makes me wonder why they were in the film. If you can't make convincing computer-animated human characters, then you probably shouldn't make a story set in the human world. Also, the characters are bad. I really hated Samson as a protagonist. Throughout the film, he is continuing to lie about his wild instincts and it just became obvious by the end of the film and doesn't seem to grow as a character. In fact, none of the other characters grow as well, and their arcs are predictably obvious. Benny's identity is having a crush on Bridgette who keeps turning him down until the end of the film and it's predictable. Bridgette herself doesn't have any identity, as does Nigel, and Larry except for traits of comic relief and stupid. Also, the villains are lame as well and just come off as annoying and confusing. Watching these characters really made me wish I was watching these actors in the better-animated films they were in. If there's one good thing I can say about this film, is that at least it's short. It's not high praise, but it didn't drag on as long as I thought.
Overall, I simply cannot recommend "The Wild" at all. It's just dreadful. The story is a ripoff and extremely unfunny, the animation is bad and looks unappealing, and the characters are bland and lack identity. If there's a film I can recommend instead of this, it's "Madagascar". At least in that film, the characters have an identity and it has funny jokes. Not to mention it ended up spawning a fun trilogy. As for this, it should be locked up in a cage where it belongs.