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The Wild Reviews

A patchwork of themes, characters and action already seen in other animated children's films, including but not limited to FINDING NEMO (2003), MADAGASCAR (2005) and ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN (2006), this Disney feature follows the misadventures in Africa of six coddled zoo animals. Young Ryan (voice of Greg Cipes) has spent his life listening to his father, Sampson (Kiefer Sutherland), tell tales of his life in untamed Africa — tales that, were Ryan not a lion cub born and raised in Manhattan's Central Park Zoo, he might recognize as strongly resembling key moments from THE LION KING (1994). But he is just a cub, and a cub with a serious inferiority complex to boot. While Samson — Sammy to his friends — has mastered a brain-rattling roar, Ryan can just about muster a humiliating kitty-cat meow. He impulsively stows away in a cargo container he's heard is bound for the wilds, forcing Samson and his best friends — street-smart squirrel Benny (Jim Belushi), quick-witted giraffe Bridget (Janeane Garofalo), dimwitted anaconda Larry (Richard Kind) and truculent koala Nigel (Eddie Izzard) — to mount a rescue mission. Samson's posse follows Ryan all the way to Africa, arriving moments after he bounds into a jungle overshadowed by a seething volcano and teeming with wildebeests whose deranged leader, Kazar (William Shatner), is determined to subvert nature and move their kind to the top of the food chain… though not until after they've mastered the kicky dance numbers Kazar's been tinkering with. Though shot through with odd moments of invention, the film never matches the early moment when the fugitive creatures poke their heads out of the garbage truck in which they've made their escape and are stunned — and more than a little frightened — by the awesome grandeur of Manhattan's glass and steel canyons. And while it's patently ridiculous to ask for logic in a film where a bunch of zoo animals pilot a tugboat from New York to Africa, internal logic is another matter, and the ethnicities attached to certain supporting creatures are just baffling. OK, the Canadian Geese talk like Canucks — obvious and perhaps insensitive, but you see where the filmmakers are coming from. Not so with the billionth-generation New York pigeons saddled with stereotypically thick Indian accents, or with the German dung beetles. Quibbles, but quibbles indicative of a larger issue — that gags consistently trump character. And if you don't care about the characters, then everything's just a big, dumb joke.