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Alpha and Omega

Leave it to the Wolves

Summer may be over, but that won’t stop movie studios from releasing kid-friendly animated fare, even if said fare, the woefully uninspired, low-quality Alpha and Omega, was meant for a straight-to-DVD or cable release and not the premium pricing associated with 3D-releases like How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, or Despicable Me. Crest Animation Productions and Lionsgate are obviously hoping non-discriminating parents will give Alpha and Omega a chance this weekend when family-oriented films will be in short supply, but they shouldn’t.

Alpha and Omega centers on Humphrey (voiced by Justin Long), an “omega” — a bottom-dwelling caste member, in a wolf pack led by Winston (Danny Glover). Humphrey doesn’t stand a chance to advance within the wolf pack or, more importantly where his libido is concerned, get together with the “alpha” of his dreams, Kate (Hayden Panettiere). Kate has little interest in Humphrey, except as an occasional playmate. Humphrey’s personal situation grows more dire when Winston, in an effort to appease the contentious leader of a rival pack, Tony (the late Dennis Hopper), agrees to unite the packs, mating Kate to Tony’s son, Garth (Chris Carmack).

Everything changes when Humphrey and Kate are taken from their homes in Jasper National Park, Canada, to Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho, to repopulate the recreation area with new wolves, ostensibly to help rebalance the population of elk and other herbivores. Kate, of course, wants to return to Jasper, her family, and her status as an alpha female, thus beginning a series of bland adventures involving Humphrey and Kate meeting a golf-obsessed, French-Canadian goose, Marcel (Larry Miller), and his British sidekick, Paddy (Eric Price). Back at Jasper, Kate’s disappearance has led to tensions between the rival packs, but Kate’s younger sister, Lilly (Christina Ricci), an omega, strikes up a relationship with Garth.

There’s nothing in Alpha and Omega we have haven’t seen before, from the unoriginal Romeo & Juliet/West Side Story (with The Lion King mixed in for mediocre measure) storyline to the predictable feel-good conclusion. That’s almost excusable, especially when we consider the high turnover involved connected with family-oriented films as children grow up and begin to watch more sophisticated, challenging films, but in the case of Alpha and Omega, it’s impossible to look past the sub-par animation. Crest Animation Productions (no affiliation, apparently, with the toothpaste company) and its India-based animators obviously didn’t have the time, resources, and skill set to deliver a passably watchable product. And extrapolating the kind of crude animation Alpha and Omega has to offer into 3D feels like a cynical cash grab (it probably is).

Alpha and Omega would have been better suited for the direct-to-DVD market where parents looking to waste ninety minutes will be willing to give Alpha and Omega’s low-quality animation a pass.