Alpha and Omega (2010)

Alpha and Omega is a trite, forced, boring retread of The Lion King which could only have been designed by a committee without a boss. It has no vision and little charm. It has questionably computer-y animation which looks and moves terribly in 3-D. It has no fun voice performances, character development or good music. There is a basic thread of a story you may find yourself shredding trying to hold onto until the final credits, so it charts a bit higher on my scale than some lousier films, but folks, that is low praise. Run your fingers over its movie brain and you will find no grooves.

There are these animated wolves, see, in animated Wyoming, who live by wolf pack law, a strict segregation between Alphas and Omegas, except for when their two stated purposes--hunting and distracting with humor for various reasons, respectively--come into alignment.

Kate (voice of Hayden Panettiere) is "The Wolf Princess," the daughter of the leader of the pack, Winston (voiced by Danny Glover)--because kids love throwaway Tarantino references--who is coming into her own as a grown-up Alpha and learning about some of the hard choices adults and leaders must make.

Her fun-loving childhood companion, Humphrey (voice of Justin Long), pronounced "home free," an Omega with a major-league crush on Kate, is fun-loving and has a major-league crush on Kate.

Kate has only just learned about an arranged marriage with the risible but earnest Garth (voiced by Chris Carmack) designed to unite two feuding wolfpacks, when some pesky human conservationists muck everything up by tranquilizing and transporting Kate and Humphrey to Idaho to repopulate another national park with wolves. This has worked startlingly well in real life, but of course seems somewhat presumptuous to our rather pointlessly anthropomorphized cartoon wolf heroes.

So Kate and Humphrey must journey back to Wyoming, Kate to fulfill what she sees as her responsibilities to the pack, Humphrey for fun and because Kate is. Along the way, they meet not-particularly-interesting golfing goose Marcel (voiced by Larry Miller), who sometimes sounds French?(-Canadian?) and his duck caddy, Paddy, who's British or something. Maybe they were intended to be funny. The interesting animals they meet along the way have no lines, because they are animals with animal instincts, and that would be dangerously interesting.

There are lots of particular plot elements which might have been expanded into something meaningful, or useful for character development--the stratification of the wolf society, Marcel and Paddy's purposes as characters, conservation and its successes and failures, Kate and Humphrey's love story--but everything's told in shorthand, and interesting questions and happenings are instantly forgotten the few times they are raised. It's relatively inoffensive, because it engages no dramatic or humorous issues. Whatever thought may have gone into it has been rubbed out by somebody else working fast over here to make sure there are no actual thoughts left extant. Oh, don't get me wrong, it is mildly, casually sexist, racist, misogynistic and homophobic, but clearly only from cluelessness, and in no way which would require or sustain much analysis or rebuttal. (I admit I'm a bit embarrassed to write this about a talking wolf movie, but I'll leave it in because it's true.)

The film doesn't even look good. It's at least two more illustration passes away from being theatrically releasable, in my opinion. We know it's computer animation, but we're never supposed to be able to see that on the screen with incomplete, ugly blocky characters and backgrounds of what are supposed to be some of the most beautiful places in America, looking like when the scene scrolls between shots in golf video games. It makes the least interesting use of the extra dimension of 3-D films that I have seen, mostly because of blurriness, also because of bad blocking. And some fine and just-okay actors' vocal performances are wasted in a film with few emotional notes and little wit. The score, by Chris P. Bacon, is rather listless Americana which matches the unimaginative landscape.

If you're truly desperate for an animated movie, you could theoretically do worse than Alpha and Omega for an afternoon matinee, but I would urge you to reconsider your desperation level. It's not a run-screaming-from-the-theater-bad movie, it prompts more philosophical questions, like "Why are we here?" and "Did I really pay enough attention when I skimmed Dianetics?" but generally, anyone would be well advised to find a stronger and more entertaining movie, and could certainly easily do so. Why not give Alpha and Omega a solid skip.

9-17-10


Links for Alpha and Omega

Internet Movie Database Entry

Official Site

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