Alpha and Omega: Film Review
Abounding in dumb jokes that kids are bound to like but sometimes too scary for very young viewers, "Alpha and Omega" -- also going out in 2D -- takes too long to find its footing and at best is proficient, not exhilarating.
Opposites attract and love conquers society's rules in "Alpha and Omega," a standard rom-com set among wildish wolves and dressed up in 3D animation. Abounding in dumb jokes that kids are bound to like but sometimes too scary for very young viewers, the movie -- also going out in 2D -- takes too long to find its footing and at best is proficient, not exhilarating. It's the youngest moviegoers who would get the biggest kick from the 3D effects, but for families on an entertainment budget, they're not special enough to warrant the extra cost.
The Lionsgate release, opening wide Sept. 17, should capture decent box-office coin as an option for families amid the spate of adult-targeted fall fare.
A Burbank-Mumbai co-production of the Indian CGI company Crest Animation, the film invests its dimensional effects in its characters as they run, jump, fly and, less successfully, dance. The flat picture-book quality of its backgrounds has an old-fashioned appeal but might disappoint viewers used to more pop and dazzle. The visual scheme wouldn't feel wanting, though, if the movie's opening third weren't so devoid of charm. But even when the storytelling falters, the strong voice cast delivers spirited work that includes one of Dennis Hopper's last performances.
At the story's center are two young wolves in Canada's Jasper National Park. Humphrey (Justin Long) is beguiled by lifelong friend Kate (Hayden Panettiere). She's an alpha being groomed for leadership, and he's one of the ragtag omegas, sweet and funny but not exactly career-oriented, and never the twain shall meet -- or mate. With hunting territory at a premium, their pack faces a challenge from the encroaching Eastern wolves. (To its credit, the script by Christopher Denk and Steve Moore doesn't use the setting as an excuse for an eco-sermon.) In an effort to unite the packs and prevent war, leader Winston (Danny Glover) has promised his eldest daughter, Kate, to the son of Eastern leader Tony (Hopper).
The film gains momentum when park rangers relocate Kate and Humphrey to Idaho to repopulate Sawtooth National Forest, an agreeable prospect to the smitten omega. But Kate's sense of duty puts them on a road trip back home so that she can marry alpha Garth (Chris Carmack), according to plan. While they're stowing away on motor homes and trains, overcoming rainstorms and bears, responsible Kate learns to have fun and nice-guy Humphrey proves he can be a good protector. Back home, Kate's little sister, Lilly (Christina Ricci), a shy omega with pale violet eyes, falls for fitness showoff Garth, a romance that has more spark than the central one, which is too clearly destined from the start.
Directors Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck include a couple of brief but unfortunate musical sequences. It turns out that howling, for happily in love young wolves, sounds disturbingly like slick pop crooning. At the other end of the spectrum are sparingly used predatory elements that might be a problem for little ones. Besides the snarling wolves and stampeding caribou are the bizarrely violent verbal threats of Kate's mother (Vicki Lewis) -- not funny for any age group.
Earning laughs, though, is the repartee between a French golfing goose (Larry Miller) and his English duck factotum (Eric Price). Grown-ups will find themselves waiting for the bird duo to reappear and for Hopper's next line, the best of which -- "Howling with an omega, are we?" -- feels like a fitting epitaph, delivered with zing.