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'Alpha and Omega' no leader of the (3-D) pack
By Dann Gire | Daily Herald Film Critic

The poorly animated "Alpha and Omega" features the voice talents of Hayden Panettiere and Justin Long as the lupine title characters.

 

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Published: 9/17/2010 12:01 AM

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Early this summer when I was a guest on the now-defunct, local CBS morning news show "Monsters and Money," I was asked about the future of 3-D movies.

I said that the biggest danger to the current 3-D boom will come when the market gets flooded with cheaply made, poor-quality 3-D films and the term "3-D" will quickly become associated with mediocrity, or worse.

Here comes the beginning of that flood.

"Alpha and Omega" traffics in the sort of sophomoric storytelling and shortchanged animation we'd expect to see on a Saturday morning cartoon rush-job.

This isn't to say that "Alpha and Omega" is a terrible motion picture with no redeeming values. (The 2008 3-D "Fly Me to the Moon" was far dumber with flatter, more lackluster animation.)

For a feature theatrical release, though, "Alpha and Omega" just can't compete with the polish of a Pixar picture, or other more sophisticated animated productions from DreamWorks SKG.

This movie comes from Crest Animation Productions, an India-based company with a satellite office in Los Angeles.

The press notes brag that while most big-budget animated movies take an average of three years to create, Crest managed to make "Alpha and Omega" in half the time.

Uh, did Crest ever think there might be a good reason those other animated movies took three years to make?

"Alpha and Omega" tells the story of how a Canadian Alpha wolf named Kate (voiced by Hayden Panettiere) and an Omega wolf named Humphrey (voiced by Justin Long) don't like each other.

Alphas and Omegas aren't allowed to mix because of the class system installed by centuries of lupine tradition.

Park rangers sedate Kate and Humphrey and whisk them off to repopulate in Idaho. The two wolves will have none of that repopulating stuff, and decide to take a long hike back home.

We can pretty much figure out what happens.

Yes, there's a reason that the wolves are called Kate and Humphrey - after Kate Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, stars of a movie with the same plot: "The African Queen."

Note to Crest executives: This is as close to "African Queen" as your movie will ever get.

Christina Ricci supplies the seductively girlie voice to Lilly, an alluring white wolf who wants to put her paws all over the studly Garth (voiced by Chris Carmack) of the neighboring Eastern wolf pack.

Unbeknown to them, Garth's daddy wolf (voiced by the late Dennis Hopper) and Kate's daddy wolf (voiced by Danny Glover) have agreed they should marry and unite their two rival packs - before the two factions literally are at each other's throats.

"Alpha and Omega" is hodgepodge filmmaking at its most mediocre.

The musical interludes feel forced and arbitrary, bland and empty.

The animated characters constantly tumble and spin through the air like trapeze artists on caffeine, performing the impossible feats of cartoon characters instead of exhibiting more wolfly attributes.

The 3-D print I saw was extremely fuzzy to the point of being blurry in several scenes. (Just the digital print? Maybe not. Even the press photos for "Alpha and Omega" I saw are slightly out of focus.)

I'm with Kate on one point: There shouldn't be any repopulating of the characters in this movie.