September 23, 2010

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Alpha and Omega?(PG)
Wolves date outside their social status in Alpha and Omega, an animated movie ostensibly for kids but which brings the generations together by boring the pants off everyone.

At least, in the unscientific survey of people in the very small audience with whom I saw the movie, everyone seemed bored into stupefaction. There was the kid somewhere behind me making tappy noises with his feet. There was the 10-year-old I came with, who never once laughed. And there was me, looking at my cell phone every three minutes thinking that surely half an hour must have passed since I last checked.

And not only were we bored, but we had to be bored in a perfectly upright, unnaturally stiff position; the 3-D visuals would go blurry with the slightest tilt of the head.

And heaven forbid we miss a moment of the tale of Humphrey (voiced by Justin Long), a slacker comedian “omega” wolf, and Kate (Hayden Panettiere), a go-getter confident “alpha” wolf. Kate is the daughter of the pack’s leader, Winston (Danny Glover doing his best James Earl Jones), and his totally creepy Lady-Macbeth-ish wife Eve (Vicki Lewis). They expect Kate to marry Garth (Chris Carmack), the, like, totally rad son of Tony (Dennis Hopper, RIP) the leader of another pack of Eastern wolves. Their marriage will unite the pack and allow the Eastern wolves to peacefully hunt for caribou on Winston’s pack lands.

But on the night that Kate and Garth are supposed to have their first date, Kate and Humphrey, who were puppy-hood friends, get tranquilizer-darted and taken from their home in a park in Canada to a state park in Utah. They are expected — as the golf-loving French Canadian goose Marcel (Larry Miller) and his caddy, a duck named Paddy (Eric Price), explain — to repopulate the wolf community. While a little repopulation sounds great to Humphrey, Kate has responsibilities to her pack and demands that she be shown the way back home. With help from their new avian pals, the wolves head north, but, naturally, their journey brings them closer together.

Did I mention the hold-your-head-perfectly-still aspect of this movie? Your prize for perfect posture is some dark and unspectacular images that, when there is any action, frequently whirl out of focus. If some combination of unfortunate occurrences results in you being trapped like a frightened woodland creature and forced to see this movie, let me suggest you stick to the 2-D and use the additional money for aspirin.

Though let me also suggest that you skip this movie entirely — Despicable Me is still in theaters and that’s far more deserving of your money and your time. Kids’ movies don’t need to be all groundlings’ goofiness, all pratfalls and fart jokes. But if the story itself isn’t going to be inherently fun or adventurous or lighthearted, then you might as well shove in a farting klutz. I don’t know that stories about social status and familial responsibility are anyone’s favorite yarn, much less the five-to-eight-year-old kids at whom this movie seems aimed. C-

Rated PG for rude humor and some mild action. Directed by Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck and written by Chris Denk and Steve Moore, Alpha and Omega is an hour and 28 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Lionsgate.