Open Season (2006)

Genres - Children's/Family, Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film, Family-Oriented Comedy  |   Release Date - Sep 29, 2006 (USA - IMAX 3D)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - Netherlands   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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The year 2006 had already borne witness to so many "animated animals teaming up" movies, it wouldn't have been a surprise if audiences were ready to side with the hunters when Open Season came out in late September. Add to that the two polarizing personalities (Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence) providing the lead voices, and you might have heard triggers cocking in darkened theaters across America. But both performers bring plenty of warmth to their first animated roles, and Open Season, with its rich palette of Starbucks greens and browns, is as pleasant to endure from a character perspective as it is easy on the eyes. This Sony Pictures Animation offering simply pops off the screen, its canvas deep and sumptuous, its characters wild and angular. A particular masterpiece of vulgarity is the villainous hunter Shaw, snarled by Gary Sinise. A lanky hillbilly in an orange vest, he's all legs and teeth. His relentless pursuit of the buck (Kutcher) who escaped from the hood of his pickup -- with a little help from a certain domesticated bear (Lawrence) -- propels numerous imaginative set pieces in the American everywoods, including a terrific raging rapids sequence that features a truck doubling as a white-water raft. But as much as there is to take in visually, let's admit that the reluctant bond between the two main characters is pretty nicely done as well -- particularly the apparent reversal of their roles. Kudos to the filmmakers for letting Lawrence play the proud straight man, Kutcher the skittish pipsqueak. Kutcher's demeaning sidekick role certainly would have gone to Lawrence if they were just operating on procedural autopilot. Despite having all surface appearances of such conformity, Open Season is a definite breath of fresh air, the woodsy scent of pine needles seeming to emanate from the very screen.