Before I begin this week’s review, I need to offer a big “thank you” to my editor for arranging a special, private screening for me this week. Reserving the entire theater for only me was a moving display of —
Editor: Jeff, I didn’t reserve the theater.
Jeff: So that wasn’t a special treat or perk?
Editor: Uh, no.
You are more correct than you know, Madame Editor, because nothing about “Strange Wilderness” felt special or like any sort of treat.
I know it’s only February, but I have just seen one of my bottom 10 for 2008. You may think I’m jumping the gun or suffering from Oscar season hangover, but I promise you, there is no chance that 10 movies worse than this will come to town this year.
“Strange Wilderness” is a stoner comedy made by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company. So I didn’t expect much. But this makes “Dazed & Confused” look like Shakespeare and any Cheech & Chong look like “The Odyssey.” Perhaps the “Wilderness” people forgot that it’s the audience who’s supposed to be stoned?
This movie is also evidence that theaters don’t check IDs for R-rated movies, because anyone old enough to see this thing legally is too smart for it. I put the target audience around 12 and male. Speaking only to that group: there’s plenty of women going topless for no reason and men hitting each other in the groin.
You’ll love it.
Everyone else: to paraphrase a character from another Happy Madison production, you’ll all be dumber for having seen this movie.
The whole mess is mostly an excuse to show stock wildlife footage and add dirty narration to it. First, it’s been done (“What’s Up, Tiger Lily?,” “Farce of the Penguins,” “Mystery Science Theater”). Second, we’ve all done this in our living rooms, and we’re funnier.
Thinking I’m just being a snobby critic? At one point, our main characters meet a new character, named “Dick.” They laugh about the name for a full minute. It went on so long I began timing it.
One of the running gags is one character touching a hand buzzer to his friends’ groins.
The male characters keep dropping their pants.
In the centerpiece of the movie, a character urinates in the woods. A turkey suddenly appears, bites the character’s groin, and gets “it” stuck in its throat.
Noticing a theme?
Not only is this movie not funny, it’s one of the most homophobic films ever made. The characters are all terrified of male genitalia because appearing comfortable with male anatomy might make them gay, yet they’re all so obsessed with the same body part that they might as well dispense with the closet.
This movie is so bad that the last shot, the climactic moment, is an outtake. Lacking some way to end the story (which barely has a beginning or a middle, for that matter), they show two of the actors breaking character and laughing.
The studios dump their worst films during January and February because they know we’re all back to work and short on money after the holidays. I’ve never seen such clear evidence of that strategy.
I was extremely happy to be in the theater alone, because I repeatedly begged — loudly — for the movie to end.
Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.