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In Jasper National Park, the wolves, Kate and Humphrey, have known each other since puppyhood, but they are on the oppose ends of the Western Pack's social structure with Kate as the energetic Alpha daughter of the pack leader and Humphrey being the good humoured Omega. That social structure forces Kate to accept an arranged marriage with Garth of the Eastern Pack to unite the packs for peace, regardless of Humphrey's hopeless attraction for her. Before that union can occur, Kate and Humphrey are captured by the park's rangers and sent to an Idaho park as part of a wolf repopulation project. Mindful of her duties, Kate is determined to return to Jasper and Humphrey offers to help with the assistance of two odd geese. However, as this disparate pair struggle through the dangers to get home, a growing mutual appreciation of their talents and then a deeper love threatens to disastrously complicate everything if they make it back. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Alpha and Omega (1:28, PG, 3-D) other: talking animals, 3rd string, original
I feel a little sad giving this movie a 3 (which matches up to the adjective "bad" on my 9-point scale, just above "awful" and "execrable"), because it's not as if it's really offensive, irritating, ugly, loud, stupid, or any of the other things that normally nets a rank in my bottom 1/3 the "avoid these" bunch. But it just isn't very good, so my advice has to be to skip it, despite its kindly intentions.
It's an animated pic about 2 young wolves, Humphrey (Justin Long), the omega (bottom of the pecking order), and Kate (Hayden Panettiere), the alpha (leader of the pack, or at least in training for the position*). It's part of the movie's simplistic conceit that there aren't any wolves in the beta-thru-psi range. Furthermore, the social gulf between alpha and omega is such that they may be friends but are never, never allowed to, uh, howl together.
Yes, that is the awkward bowdlerization that the film uses to let the adults know that these 2 hormone-filled teen-equivalent wild animals may in fact be inclined to have carnal knowledge of each other, while ostensibly protecting the sensibilities of the little kiddies in attendance. In furtherance of this latter objective, we get an embarrassing sequence in which the wolves actually do engage in a pathetic imitation of howling, supposedly to satisfy their innate longings for this shared intimacy.
As tension builds between the eastern and western hunting packs over who gets to raid the caribou herds of Canada's Jasper National Park, our heroes are shot with tranquilizer darts and trucked off to the Sawtooth National Wilderness of Idaho, where they are expected to repopulate the region. This too is discussed on screen with much hemming, hawing, winking, and nudging. (Really, screenwriters Chris Denk and Steve Moore, if you didn't want to talk about sex in front of the urchins, you should have made the movie about something else. And, directors Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck, depicting them sans genitalia is no more convincing than those udders on the bulls in Disney's Home on the Range.)
The problem is that Kate's, um, paw was promised in "marriage" (yes, that's what they call it) to Garth (Chris Carmack), the effective prince of the eastern pack, in a union which would supposedly unite the 2 clans in peace and harmony. But when Kate disappears, Garth's dad Tony (Dennis Hopper, in his final role) accuses his opposite number, Winston (Danny Glover), of trying to prevent the merger so he can keep the meaty resources of Jasper for his own followers. Why exactly this is contingent on the princess materializing at the appointed moment is never explained; if you think it's hard for adults to figure this out, imagine how bewildered the tots are going to be.
Anyway, Kate and Humphrey, upon being decanted in Idaho, immediately launch into Homeward Bound mode, abetted by the comic-relief birds, a balding Canada goose golfer with a French Canadian accent and his caddy, who I think is supposed to be a British duck. Right about here is where you get the impression that the characters were created by throwing darts at a thesaurus.
The wolves spend a lot of time standing upright, engaging in the kind of somersaults that would do credit to an Olympic gymnast, sledding down hills inside hemi-logs, sampling blueberries, wearing flowers, and occasionally advocating vegetarianism. Aside from that, totally realistic.
I saw the movie in 3-D, and it was used effectively rather than garishly. The depictions of the forest in the background were really quite good. The animation itself, however, seemed cut- rate, over and above having it done in Mumbai. For example, everyone concedes that fur is an animator's biggest challenge, and this movie had lots of it. Crest Animation decided to fake it by showing the fur in clumps which never moved internally and only moved minimally with respect to each other. Expressive features like eyes, mouths, and snouts were done mediocrely. (I concede that I've been spoiled rotten by DreamWorks and Pixar, and that Crest is still kilometres better than Hanna-Barbera.)
My best advice? If you want to see a really, really GOOD movie about wolves, go out and rent Never Cry Wolf, but stay away from Alpha and Omega.
*Since we're suspending disbelief here, we graciously concede, for the sake of political correctness, the possibility of an alpha FEmale.
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