What do you do when your moderately successful CG cartoon demands a sequel, and yet your two main stars more of less bail on said cinematic return? Well, if you're the studio behind the semi-successful 2006 title Open Season, you hire a couple of knock-offs and crank up the cash machine. Indeed, anyone looking for Mr. Demi Moore/Ashton Kutcher or Mr. You So Crazy/Martin Lawrence to show up and saunter as manic mule deer Elliot and cool Kodiak bruin Boog respectively will be greatly disappointed. On the upside, however, a group of new characters has been added that really bring an extra dimension to the animal antics.
It's been a year since Boog (Mike Epps) and Elliot (Joel McHale) chased a group of ravenous redneck hunters out of their woods, and things are looking up for both of our heroes. As a matter of fact, the cowardly buck is poised to marry his sunny sweetheart Giselle (Jane Krakowski). During the ceremony, dachshund pal Mr. Weenie (Cody Cameron) is "reunited" with his previous owners and dragged into the RV for a trip to a pet theme park. Looking for an excuse to skip his nuptials, Elliot rallies his best buddy and his babe, along with angry squirrel McSquizzy (Billy Connolly), to find the missing mutt. Unfortunately, they are about to come face to face with an unhinged poodle named Fifi (Crispin Glover -- oh yes) who hates all wildlife and will do everything in its power to stop Mr. Weenie from going back to nature.
With its unusual character design and frantic narrative style, it's not hard to see why the first Open Season was a decent sized hit. It followed the formula set down by such excruciating examples of the genre as Shrek, Ice Age, and Shark Tale -- that is, plentiful pop culture references strewn across a "couldn't care less," unimportant plotline. Set the supercomputer for 80 minutes of rendering, and you've got yourself another innocuous bit of home video babysitting. Oddly enough, Open Season 2 is a bit better than its source. Thanks to a fresh approach in the casting (McHale and Epps are far funnier than their A-list counterparts) and a terrific turn by the always electrifying Glover, there are times when you can actually look past the crass marketing strategy and enjoy the ride.
Everyone's favorite Letterman legend is brilliant as Fifi, his slightly insane line readings turning the funny-looking ball of fur into something quite sinister indeed. Glover gets lots of screen time, which is always a good thing, and he makes for a wonderfully wicked villain. Connolly also excels as the rodent with the mouth of a salty sailor. There are several hilarious moments when Boog has to cover the critter's yap for fear him saying something scandalous (implied, of course). The newer characters, including domesticated dog Roberto (Steve Schirripa) and crazy cat Roger (Sean Mullen) get some good laughs as well. Indeed, one of the best things about Open Season 2 is the attempt to make character, not dated wisecracks, the reason we respond.
Yet there's no denying the makeshift, make-do nature of this release. The animation, while good, is definitely limited by time and budgetary constraints and at 76 minutes, this feels short even by genre values. In addition, the pet playland doesn't get enough screen time. It's an intriguing idea (giant fire hydrant fountains, catnip cocktails) that gets pushed in the background in order to serve the finale. Still, with the introduction of Fifi and the positive reconfiguration of past characters, Open Season 2 is a solid effort. It's not a classic, but it's not a clunker either.
Biff, you're in real trouble now.