Film Scouts Reviews

"Wild America"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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I had the preconceived notion that "Wild America" was going to be like those lame live action movies that Disney put out in the sixties, or a Discovery channel documentary on our vanishing wildlife. I was wrong. It is a fantastically entertaining movie about three wild brothers have to first confront their father with their need to leave the family business. Then they hit the road in search of dangerous animals that are endangered themselves. Seen through the eyes of the youngest brother, Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Marshall, it is an engaging story that looks at the relationships between family and between the wildlife they love. Marshall is the object of the older boys' teasing and torture, and yet is the heart of the group. There is just enough edge-of-your-seat action with the animals to keep all ages entertained, and just enough brotherly love to keep the character development from getting too sentimental.

The hard part is going to be getting people into the theaters, but after seeing too many special effects extravaganzas, "Wild America" should be a welcome change and one that the entire family can enjoy. Of course any household with teenage girls will be first in line, since Jonathan Taylor Thomas stars and is backed up by Devon Sawa, the human incarnation of "Caspar" that made little hearts beat faster. And the older brother is Scott Bairstow, who won acclaim with his portrayal of Newt Call in "Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years". But it may take a little persuasion to get the teenage boys to go. I dragged thirteen- year-old Jed Mitchell who said, "I didn't want to go, but I'm glad I did. It was good." Well, you can't get higher praise than that, at least not from a teenage boy.

The film is inspired by the true story of the Stouffer film clan. Producer Mark Stouffer worked on many John Denver specials, National Geographic specials, and as contributing director for his brother's PBS series "Marty Stouffer's Wild America". Jonathan Taylor Thomas told me that it was "kinda intimidating to be playing someone who was still alive and on the set. I wanted to ask if that was the way he wanted a scene played." All three are active in making films and videos that bring a greater awareness of the creatures we share space with. And they have made this a coming-of-age movie with an environmental message without overdoing it. Rated PG from Warner Bros.

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