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Wild America

Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa and Scott Bairstow; Frances Fisher and Jamey Sheridan
Written by David Michael Wieger
Directed by William Dear

Cranky is, as all you readers know, still single. So the prospect of sitting through a live action "family" oriented movie almost literally bores him to tears. It usually means 90 minutes of fresh scrubbed faces and adorable animals, outdoor views and inspired-by-true-events stories. Which brings us to William Dear's Wild America, which has all of the above except for the pain. Cranky can report that all the families that watched Wild America with him had a darn good time.

Wild America also delivers teen fave Jonathan Taylor Thomas in the role of Marshall Stouffer, the third of three brothers. This means he takes the lumps as Marty (Scott Bairstow) and Mark Devon Sawa) learn their film making ways by shooting their various tortures of him. It sounds horrible, but works to a comic tee, as Marshall gets revenge in the cleverest of ways.

The Stouffer homestead, out in Arkansas, is awash in animals. Though the elder boys enjoy messing with their little brother, it is the shooting of a deer which they were filming that sets them on their course. There's no hidden agenda in Wild America. The film makes it clear that hunting is not foreign to the boys. The use of a film camera instead of a gun opens their eyes to the wonderment of nature.

This is, of course, where most films go down the tubes. Wild America takes a different tack as the elder brothers decide only to film the wildest and most dangerous of the endangered species list, in hopes of selling the film to a television station and making a nice profit. The boys stand up to a father who has predetermined what their future will hold, and drive off into the vast and gorgeous landscapes of the west . . .

. . .what they don't realize is that li'l bro' Marshall is hidden in the back of the truck. Which opens the film up to all sorts of different stories as the brothers bond in the face of a nature which is even more savage than the one they read about in their books. This doesn't keep Marshall from being used as bait, which works both as far as the real story goes and visually, as Marshall stares down bears, outswims gators and gets attacked by a moose.

Director William Dear takes all he's learned in a career which ranges from writing fantasy flicks like The Rocketeer and comedy disks (Michael Nesmith's Elephant Parts) to directing man meets nature stories (Harry and the Hendersons, said the punning Cranky) and keeps enough surprises and additional stories coming to please even the most jaded audiences.

Regardless of what Cranky, as an old fogey, may think about teen idols, Jonathan Taylor Thomas again delivers a pleasing performance as Marshall. I can't vouch for the other boys, who seemed interchangeable. The action sequences rocked the house, with the audience "ooh'ing" and "aah'ing" and shrieking in all the right places. A good time was had by all.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Wild America, he would have paid...


Wild America is a piece of family pleasing fun, without a cartoon character in sight. Cranky estimates a kidlet audience of 5-15 will take to it, and there is enough onscreen to keep the parents in the audience happy, too.

Click to buy films by William Dear
Click to buy films starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Click to buy films starring Devon Sawa

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