Sony Pictures Animation (2016), Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (March 8th, 2016), 1 Blu-ray + 1 DVD, 85 minutes plus supplements, 16:9 1.78:1 ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Rated PG, Retail: $30.99
When Elliot finds out that Boog believes the scary stories he’s been telling around the campfire every night are true, he decides that the only way to help his buddy overcome his fear is to try to frighten him so badly that he won’t be able to be scared anymore. Unfortunately, his plans go wrong, and soon everyone in the forest–including the “retired” hunter Shaw–is lead into believing that a werewolf is terrorizing the land.
The Sweatbox Review:
I’ve decided there’s no need to do an overly lengthy, drawn out introduction for this review. Why? Because Open Season: Scared Silly offers very little to talk about, and even attempting to discuss it for a great amount of time wouldn’t make much sense. Simply put, the movie is a letdown, not just because the sequels in this franchise have received a more or less positive response from fans overall, but also in part because it’s been unofficially used as a way to “celebrate” the tenth anniversary of Sony Pictures Animation. The good news is that the film will still probably appeal to kids. Probably. The bad news is that the plot is so simple that it’s a wonder that anyone involved thought that stretching it out into an 85-minute movie was a good idea.
This is not to say that the movie is “bad,” because it isn’t. It’s just severely underwhelming, with the only notable thing about it being that there’s nothing notable about it. As a sequel, it’s meaningless. In fact, it doesn’t even feel like a “continuation” of the Open Season “saga” so much as it just feels like another entry in a series that Sony has made the strange decision to suddenly revive (especially since this film completely ignores the events of the past two installments). And from a character standpoint, the story doesn’t make much sense. Boog is a grizzly bear who was raised in a garage. How has Elliot not realized that he might be something of a scaredy cat by now? That’s comparable to making a Finding Nemo sequel in which Marlin starts to notice that Dory is rather forgetful.
Having said that, all of this wouldn’t really matter to me if the movie were entertaining. Unfortunately, virtually everything that made the original Open Season work just isn’t to be found here. One of the best things about the first film was the great cast, with Martin Lawrence’s gentle but deep voice being perfectly suited for Boog, while Ashton Kutcher’s speedy delivery of his lines helped make Elliot obnoxious yet lovable. And while it is to be expected that big name celebrities aren’t always going to return for a straight-to-video production (although, seriously, what are Kutcher and Lawrence doing these days?), the least the studio can do is cast voice actors who can do decent impressions of them. That’s sadly not the case with Scared Silly, where almost every character in the movie–not just the two leads–is played by the scratch voices from the story reels produced during early production, rather than by professionals who can provide finalized performances suitable for a feature film. I suppose it’s nice for associate production manager William Townsend that he got to play Elliot, but like everyone else in the cast, it seems as though he got the role solely for budget reasons, his vocal pitch sounding uneven and ultimately not much at all like Kutcher (and the less said about Billy Connolly’s and Patrick Warburton’s replacements, the better).
So where does the movie succeed? Well, for about the first thirty minutes or so, things are amusing enough, which suggests that the whole thing probably would’ve worked better as a Halloween TV special. Some genuine laughs are earned, many of which coming from Mr. Weenie, although I may just be saying that because I have a weakness for cartoonish German accents (his spontaneous opera number during the final act–complete with English subtitles despite being performed in English–is for better or for worse one of the movie’s highlights). But the story quickly runs out of gas, and even re-introducing Shaw into the franchise in an attempt to help raise the stakes doesn’t help much, especially since he’s accompanied this time by two mostly unfunny Canadian food truck owners who keep dragging the comedy down.
And that’s one of the places where the movie really comes up short: the comedy. The first Open Season was really funny, with hilariously oddball side characters and an occasionally twisted sense of humor. Heck, even the bathroom jokes were pretty good, taking the whole “what does a bear do in the woods” concept into surprisingly droll territory (don’t judge me). And while Scared Silly has its fair share of giggles (Shaw’s childlike drawings are always good for a smile), far too often gags are dragged out for way too long (including a most regrettable scene in which Elliot eats another character’s poop), usually for no reason other than to kill time so that the movie can be longer. On the plus side, the movie’s visuals are fine enough, even if the character animation lacks that certain finesse that Disney usually puts into their so-called “second rate” work.
And, to be fair, Open Season: Scared Silly is ultimately harmless, and it will more likely than not succeed at making its target audience of children quite happy. It’s just too bad that it doesn’t amount to more than it does, lacking not just the appealingly offbeat tone of the original, but its heart as well. In Open Season, it was arguably Debra Messing as Boog’s owner Beth who provided the film with its soul, her performance full of love yet with subtle touches of sadness, as though her character was aware on some level that the relationship she created with her “pet” could never last. It’s ironically fitting that Scared Silly gives Beth her first appearance since the first movie, but despite Boog’s initial sense of joy upon seeing her again, a closer inspection reveals her to actually be a werewolf in disguise. That sequence, unsurprisingly, turns out to be a dream, but from a cynical (and perhaps unfair) perspective, it’s a pretty swift way of summing up the movie as a whole: it may seem nice enough, but take a closer look, and it becomes hard not to see it as anything more than a rushed–and cheap–cash grab.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Open Season: Scared Silly arrives on Blu-ray with a fair amount of special features, most of which inconsequential, but a few of which worthwhile. First up are trailers for Goosebumps and the delightful Hotel Transylvania 2, followed by previews for The Angry Birds Movie (say whatever you will about me, but I laugh at every ad I see for this thing), Angry Birds Toons on DVD, Angry Birds Stella (which is meant to be…Angry Birds “for girls”?), and Angry Birds: Piggy Tales. Next, we have Stepping Into the Spotlight: Mr. Weenie’s Process, which plays automatically when the movie is over. Here we have Mr. Weenie “explaining” how became such a successful “actor” over clips from the film. It’s not particularly enjoyable and is (fortunately) over very quickly. Even more pointless is Scaredy Pants: The Fears of Open Season: Scared Silly, which is, again, just a montage of clips, this time with Elliot describing what each character in the movie is afraid of.
Moving right along, we have Bloopers and Outtakes, which is a return to a gag I thought was long over in which the “actors” in an animated movie flub up lines or complain to the director during a take. It’s also very short, running roughly a minute or so, with only a skit in which Mr. Weenie chokes on a bug earning a chuckle. Wrapping up the “kiddie extras,” we have Open Season: Super Speedy Recap, which is exactly what it sounds like as it recounts the events of the first three films through a series of clips. As was previously noted, though, Open Season: Scared Silly acts as though the previous two installments didn’t take place, which makes the inclusion of this piece a little confusing.
Now we have the extras that adults will actually be interested in checking out. First, there’s Director Profile: David Feiss, an interview running about six minutes. Here, Feiss doesn’t talk about his work on the film so much as his career leading up to it, including his work at Hanna Barbara and DIC Entertainment (where he did the theme song for the A.L.F. cartoon series in the 80’s), working on the first Open Season during its earliest months of development, and directing the animated short films included on the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 Blu-ray. Feiss is very laid-back and comfortable during the clip, seeming extremely grateful for his career and coming across as a very nice guy. Makes me feel kinda guilty for not liking his movie more.
The biggest surprise among the extras, though, is a Feature Commentary with Director David Feiss and Writer Carlos Kotkin. With many of DreamWorks Animation’s and Disney’s top tier titles neglecting to include these as extras as of late (the last in-house Disney animated movie to have one was The Princess & the Frog on Blu-ray, and that was six years ago!), I suppose props must be given to Sony for having one on a film such as this, even if said film is one that many viewers won’t be demanding such a track for. Feiss and Kotkin are clearly having a good time throughout the entire conversation. In fact, I couldn’t count even one time in which there was a pause in the discussion, with the two talking about how they were brought aboard, the process of producing the animation, making sure the film wasn’t too scary or violent for little kids, and not acknowledging the previous sequels since Feiss had no interest in dealing with Elliot being married. It’s a pleasant listen even if there’s not much “meat” to the dialogue, with both men seeming at ease with each other and cracking plenty of jokes.
Open Season: Scared Silly comes in a standard blue plastic case with a pretty nice slipcover, with “3-D” layering on it that gives it a little texture. Inside inserts for Sony Rewards, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and the National Forest Foundation can be found, as well as a code for the film’s digital copy (which doesn’t expire until December 2019, apparently, so you’ll have plenty of time to use it).
Ink And Paint:
No one does Blu-ray like Sony, and even on a title such as this one, they still provide a spectacular presentation. Colors are extremely bright and crisp, and with no dirt to be found anywhere (this is a brand new movie, after all, taken directly from the digital source), everything is crystal clear. Open Season: Scared Silly looks great.
Open Season: Scared Silly is a movie aimed at small kids, so its audio isn’t going to quite pack the punch of titles with an older audience in mind. Still, this is a more than serviceable track, with dialogue and music balanced out with each other nicely. The usual French and Spanish language dubs are also provided, along with Mandarin, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, and Chinese.
If you want to see a smart and entertaining movie about talking animals, go and see Zootopia in theaters. If you want a movie about talking animals that will be pleasing for your kids, however…go and take them to see Zootopia in theaters. On the one hand, I feel like I may have been a little overly harsh on Open Season: Scared Silly. It’s not without its pleasures (Elliot’s description of a random dream involving dolphins is comic gold, plus the actual werewolf’s inevitable appearance at the end of the film is fun), and children, who are far less “picky” than grown-ups, should be mostly satisfied with it. But when there’s so much other stuff out there that is so much better than this right now (Disney’s The Lion Guard is delivering better production values on a weekly basis, to provide just one example), it’s difficult to give Scared Silly a solid recommendation, and the film’s dismissal of the previous sequels feels like a slap in the face to fans (regardless of if this movie does take place “before them” in the series’ timeline). Still, it’s far from terrible, and with a decent commentary track the purchase at least offers something among the extras for adults. But if there is an Open Season 5, hopefully more effort will be put into it. Otherwise this franchise might become hard to bear.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?