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Wild America Reviews

If it weren't so generally competent, this inspired by a true story yarn about three young lads who buck their small-town upbringing to embark upon an adventure -- filming a nature documentary -- would be unbearable. It harks back to a nostalgic, white-bread America that it's hard to believe existed in the late '60s, even if the real-life Stouffer family did live in Arkansas. The movie's wild-at-heart Stouffer boys are played engagingly by Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa and Scott Bairstow, and ably supported by animal-loving mom Frances Fisher and taciturn dad Jamey Sheridan. They're not your pot-smoking hooligan, getting the girl next door knocked-up kind of wild, mind you; the boys are just into good ol' clean-living fun, the likes of which stopped being the norm around the time Huck Finn rafted off into the sunset. The troubles in wilderness paradise are suitably modest: Middle brother Mark (Sawa), though scrupulously mindful of his parents, is a bit sex-crazed. Kid brother Marshall (Thomas) ends up shouldering an disproportionate share of the risk, while mastermind and aspiring Ernest Hemingway Marty (Bairstow), the eldest, gets the lion's share of the glory. From material that could easily be preachy and tiresome, director Will Dear (of the saccharine ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD) extracts something truly romantic: The image of the plucky (and oh-so-handsome) Stouffer sibs photographing soon-to-be extinct animals in the wild is one to inspire children in these unromantic times. And Dear doesn't stop there -- the usually bitter pill of respecting your family and Protestant work ethic lessons is slipped almost imperceptibly into the genuinely sweet and attractive package.