Movie: ‘Alpha and Omega’
In Theaters: Sept. 17, 2010
Director: Anthony Bell
Runtime: 88 min.
MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor and some mild action
‘Alpha and Omega’ is a good lesson in how NOT to make a family movie. It’s like the filmmakers sat around a table and brainstormed on every inappropriate scene and rude joke they could pack into 88 minutes. The animation isn’t bad, but even if you watched the movie with the sound off, it just wouldn’t be a great family film. The 3D doesn’t add much to the mix either.
The plot blurbs around the Web indicate that the movie is about two wolves trying to get home to Canada’s Jasper National Park after rangers move them to Idaho’s Sawtooth National Recreation Area to re-populate the woods with wolves. That’s the first wrong move, because we’ve got Humphrey, the male wolf (voiced by Justin Long) excited over the prospect of mating with Kate, the female wolf (Hayden Panettiere). She nixes the idea right away, but it’s awkward. Young kids might not get it, but adults will be squirming.
That’s just one storyline in a jumble of others, including the fact that two wolf packs (the alpha pack and the omega pack) back home are getting ready to battle it out for the territory; members of the two packs are not allowed to mate; and the caribou have left the area, leaving the wolves hungry. The movie also includes the requisite goofy characters, including a French-Canadian goose named Marcel (Larry Miller) and his fussy duck friend Paddy (Eric Price). There’s a lot going on here, and none of it is done really well.
One bright spot is the impressive voice cast, which includes Danny Glover as Winston, Kate’s dad and the leader of the Omega pack; Dennis Hopper (one of his last roles) as Tony, the leader of the Alpha pack and the father of Garth (Chris Carmack), who’s expected to marry Kate to unite the two packs; and Christina Ricci as Lilly, a young Omega wolf who falls in love with Garth.
They all do their best with the material, but it’s not enough for me to recommend this movie to kids of any age. I understand when animated films like ‘Alpha and Omega’ are Disney-fied to give the animals grown-up traits. But the idea of wolves dating and marrying just doesn’t ring true, and even young kids are smart enough to realize that. There’s also one scene where a burly lumberjack character is paired up with a younger librarian character. I get that they were trying to make Kate and Humphrey see that opposites can be attracted to each other, but it’s all very weird.
Sexuality has played a part in plenty of other family films, including ‘Shrek’ and ‘Toy Story,’ but in a more innocent, family-friendly way. In ‘Alpha and Omega,’ it takes center stage, turning it into a teen/adult film disguised as a kid’s film. It just doesn’t work.
Notes for Parents:
Sex/Nudity: Where to begin? This movie is rife with sexual innuendoes and jokes, including ongoing themes about which wolves can mate; why alphas and omegas can play together as kids, but never mate as adults; and one alpha male’s limp, unimpressive howl. Innuendoes include: “Was it good for you?” (a male wolf to a female wolf after he shows off his howling skills), “Check out her moves,” “She’s hot,” and “You can’t howl together” (“howling together” means that male and female wolves are also mating). One scene shows a male wolf excited about the possibility of mating with a female wolf (she nixes the idea).
Violence/Gore. A mother alpha wolf makes several threats about ripping body parts off wolves and shoving them down their throats. Other scenes include snarling wolves ready to attack, two wolves evading angry bears, and a caribou stampede nearly killing several wolves.
Profanity: Includes “butt,” “dumb,” “Oh my god.”
Drugs/Alcohol: Not an issue.
Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 6 and older who like CG-animated movies with talking animals (though I don’t recommend it for kids younger than 8 – or, really, any kids).
Will Parents Like It? There’s too much sexy stuff and rude humor to be a family-friendly movie. One scene includes a wolf having to urinate, which we hear off-screen when he’s frightened.
Images: Lionsgate Films