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Open Season

Sony Goes Where Other Studios Have Gone Before

There’s nothing terribly wrong with Open Season, Sony’s first full-length foray into the world of digital animation. Directors Roger Allers (The Lion King) and Jill Culton (Monsters, Inc.) are savvy veterans of the genre, and here they have produced a slick, high-energy comedy that will undoubtedly appeal to the younger set. And the artwork is truly impressive, with its vibrant autumnal hues and crisp, imaginatively rendered characters. Yet the story is a bit too familiar.

As more and more studios have struggled to match the achievements of Pixar, the heaviest hitter in the animation game, moviegoers have been bombarded with wacky wildlife fantasies populated by furry, four-legged goofs. At long last, the formula is starting to wear thin.

In Open Season, the lead cutup is Elliott (Ashton Kutcher), a brash, fast-talking deer who seems more than a little inspired by Eddie Murphy’s character from Shrek. Elliott befriends Boog (Martin Lawrence), a domesticated grizzly bear who lives comfortably in a ranger’s garage, and tries to introduce him the one thing he’s never known: his natural habitat.

Before long, the odd couple finds itself in a forest filled with sassy squirrels, angry beavers and at least one hunter (Gary Sinise) who can’t seem to wait until shooting season begins to bust out his shotgun. Once it does, Elliott and Boog -- who’s not exactly prepared for a life in the wilderness -- team up with the rest of the woodland creatures to defend their turf.

There are enough clever sight gags to keep the action passably amusing, and the good-natured slapstick works to a point, but we’ve seen this story before, most recently in 2005’s Madagascar. Like most everything else in Open Season, the voice-work is adequate: Kutcher infuses his role with boyish exuberance, making the most of Elliott’s fondness for fart jokes and frequent defecation, and Sinise is sufficiently menacing as the over-eager predator.

Still, after so many animated ventures into the wild, the story seems stale. Open Season is a splendid technical achievement, and Sony’s mastery of the CGI format never comes into question, but the movie is all style and not enough substance.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars