Alpha and Omega (2010)

Genres - Children's/Family  |   Sub-Genres - Family-Oriented Adventure  |   Release Date - Sep 17, 2010 (USA)  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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With Pixar setting the standard, it's difficult for any "off-label" CG production to stand out, and this effort from Lionsgate and Crest Animation barely manages to hold its own, despite a talented voice cast including Danny Glover and the late Dennis Hopper. While Alpha and Omega is not an all-out failure, it is mediocre on every level. The odd-couple story is sweet, but not particularly charming. The pace doesn't lag, though it's never exciting. There are scary moments that contain no suspense. Everything about this movie begins with good intent only to fizzle immediately afterward.

The film revolves around two packs of wolves competing for dominance in one of Canada's national parks. Each pack is divided into a rigid social structure consisting of Alpha wolves, who provide food and protect their fellows, and Omega wolves, who diffuse squabbles with humor and catchy song-and-dance numbers. As their food source dwindles, Kate (voiced by Hayden Panettiere), a young wolf fresh out of "Alpha training," reluctantly agrees to the wolf equivalent of marriage with a member of the rival pack, hoping it will prevent a war over territory. The news is greatly disappointing to Humphrey (voiced by Justin Long), a fun-loving Omega who fears he must put his long-held feelings for her aside in order to maintain peace.

Before Kate and her betrothed can make a love connection, however, she and Humphrey are shot with tranquilizer darts and transported from Canada to Idaho, where they are released by a pair of park rangers who -- scandalously -- hope they will repopulate the area's scarce wolf population. With the help of a couple of unlikely golf partners (a well-heeled English duck, and a snooty Canadian goose obsessed with his alleged French roots), the mismatched couple embarks on a journey home that consists of equal parts witty repartee and perilous encounters with larger predators and harsh weather conditions. Not surprisingly, they realize they have more in common than either of them anticipated.

Alpha and Omega, at its best, is mildly entertaining. Designed for very young viewers, it feels like a half-hearted remake of The Adventures of Milo and Otis crossed with a tricked-out, extra-long episode of Dora the Explorer. Unlike 2010's bigger child-oriented productions (Toy Story 3, Despicable Me), this film offers little in the way of entertainment for parents. Still, it's a passable enough way for young audiences to whittle away the time on a rainy weekend.