BluRay Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLURAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    Steve Zahn as PETER GAULKE
    Allen Covert as FRED WOLF
    Jonah Hill as COOKER
    Kevin Heffernan as WHITAKER
    Ashley Scott as CHERYL
    Peter Dante as DANNY GUITERREZ
    Harry Hamlin as SKY PIERSON
    Robert Patrick as GUS HAYDEN

    Rated R
    Studio: Paramount

    Directed by: Fred Wolf

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Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn) is the host of the worst wildlife show on television. The sad fact is that it was a great show before his father (the original host) died and left it to him. Even in his dreadful 3 a.m. time slot, he’s facing cancellation. To keep the show alive, Peter embarks on a wild quest to find Bigfoot in the heart of Mexico. His crew of slackers and stoners try to keep the production alive, but a series of pitfalls along the way threaten to end the life of the “Strange Wilderness” legacy.

This is the third time that I’ve watched “Strange Wilderness,” and that’s not an easy feat for me. Because I watch films for a living, I rarely get a chance to watch my favorite films multiple times. However, with DVD and BluRay releases, I am offered a chance to revisit films from the past.

After catching “Strange Wilderness” during its initial theatrical run, then watching it again last year on DVD, I have had a chance to see it again, this time in the glorious hi-definition of the BluRay format. And I am a bit embarrassed to say that the film has grown on me a bit.

When I saw it in the theaters, I really disliked the movie. Then catching it on DVD, I found it mildly funny. Now, in my third viewing, I know what parts are too lame to watch and which parts will be funny. I also know what to expect from the film, so I can anticipate the more enjoyable moments – most of which come from the nature footage with terrible narration.

I think my slow warming up to this film comes from the fact that it works better viewed in a home video setting. And, I would imagine that if you are a stoner yourself (which I am not) or like to drink at nine in the morning (which I don’t do either), this film is going to touch you in a very personal and mildly inappropriate way.

While not as funny as the other Happy-Madison stoner comedy “Grandma’s Boy,” “Strange Wilderness” has a perverse charm that oozes out of the film when watched at home.

There are still plenty of negative aspects to this movie. The scenes don’t necessarily flow together but rather seem like a hodge-podge of SNL sketches that were too lewd, violent or costly to put on television. Plus, the normally hilarious Jonah Hill comes across as too abrasive and annoying in this movie. Plenty of jokes still fall flat, even with multiple viewings, and there could have been more nature footage with Steve Zahn’s sing-song narrative. Oh, and I would have appreciated a more generous topless scene with Ashley Scott... but that’s just me.

The BluRay features mirror those that were on the original DVD release. There’s an extended cut of “Cooker’s Song,” shot from behind the camera on set. There’s also a rather lengthy and overly detailed account of how the turkey gag was achieved. Another featurette called “What Do We Do?” shows the candid side of filming a scene with the cast.

The gems of the special features include an episode of “Reel Comedy” from Comedy Central, hosted by Lisa Arch, who does hilarious interviews with the cast of “Strange Wilderness.” There’s also about 20 minutes of deleted scenes that are as funny – if not funnier – than some of the gags in the movie itself.

Finally, the video transfer to BluRay is worth mentioning. While this film won’t go down in history as cinematography gold, the hi-def look of the video image looks great for home theater. Sure, the nature footage is recycled 1970s-era b-roll, but the film itself has a crisp, rich look that’s worth watching if you’re into high-quality video imagery.

Stoners, and anyone who is really drunk.

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