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Rated 2.9 stars
by 502 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Nowhere Men
by Adam Hakari

Humor comes at you in many different ways. It can be something as simple as a well-timed pun or as complex as a Rube Goldbergian anecdote with a gut-busting finish. Other times, though, a movie like Strange Wilderness comes along that's so outright dimwitted and childish, you can't help chuckling a little bit. This is the brand of comedy Adam Sandler's Happy Madison company has pioneered, so it's no surprise its latest production follows right in line. Unfortunately, the film also inherited a tendency to be scattershot with gags, resulting in a few misses too many. 

Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn) grew up in the shadow of his father, the host of an acclaimed wildlife show called "Strange Wilderness." Nowadays, Peter hosts the show, but thanks to a lack of funding and a crew of goofball slackers, its quality has gone down the tubes in a big way. In fact, the show is so bad the network powers-that-be have given Peter two weeks before the plug gets pulled. But when all hope seems lost, along comes the perfect opportunity to rescue "Strange Wilderness." An old coot (Joe Don Baker) claims to know the location of that most mythical of monsters, Bigfoot. Urban legend or not, Peter and crew jump at the chance to shoot the show of a lifetime, embarking on a quest where thugs, double-crossing trackers, and the wilderness itself make finding Bigfoot easier said than done.

I know it seems a little unfair to brand a film "juvenile" right off the bat, but watch any five-minute chunk of Strange Wilderness, and you'll know exactly what I mean. There's simply no other way to describe a movie where about two whole minutes are devoted to the cast chuckling at a certain shorter name for "Richard." Strange Wilderness seems almost unpretentious in blatantly admitting its target audience is very easy to amuse. Don't worry, the movie refuses to cop any attitude or pretend the people who watch it are only interested in low-brow gags; rather, the filmmakers are looking for a few goofy laughs, and they don't care about how raunchy they have to be. On the other hand, this approach not only leads to a few moments that appear so stupid they're actually funny, but also to many just plain stupid moments. 

Strange Wilderness at least embraces an earnest spirit. It tries to land a couple of good jokes, in contrast to the type of spoofs in Meet the Spartans where merely mentioning something from pop culture is supposed to be the gag. Happily, Strange Wilderness made me chuckle on quite a few occasions, mostly during footage from the show, which gleefully features grossly inaccurate information (example: "Bears derive their name from a football team in Chicago."). There's even a moment near the end involving a shark and a goofy laugh that I'm almost ashamed to admit had me in stitches. But a lot of the time, the simplistic sense of humor does wear thin, be it via overextended routines, flavorless supporting players (two-thirds of whom could've been compacted into one character), and the occasional hint of a lazy streak (which figures prominently in the movie's extremely abrupt ending).

Strange Wilderness didn't stir up too much business in theaters, but now with the DVD release, it's well on the way to becoming something of a cult hit. This is the sort of movie that's probably better to watch with a bunch of your buddies. Still, even though it's amusing enough to stick with through the running time, the film fails to stake out any original comedic territory. 

MY RATING: ** (out of ****)

(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "R" for non-stop language, drug use, crude and sexual humor.)

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