This tale just chases its tail
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, September 17, 2010
"Alpha and Omega," an unambitious 3-D animation about a couple of young wolves in love, isn't so much howlingly bad as it is howlingly boring. It's "The Call of the Mild" -- no bark, no bite. The littlest children in your house may find something to titter at from time to time, but based on the reaction of a young screening audience, it won't be often.
The story concerns Kate (voice of Hayden Panettiere), a rising alpha female in a Canadian wolf pack who's destined to be paired off with Garth (Chris Carmack), the rising alpha male of a rival pack. The caribou food source is becoming scarce, and the two packs' elders, Winston (Danny Glover) and Tony (the late Dennis Hopper), have agreed to unite their two formerly warring kingdoms under the leadership of the young couple. There's one problem. Humphrey (Justin Long), an omega wolf at the other end of the social hierarchy, likes Kate. But he's a goofball, and she's a queen in the making. In the wolf world, alphas and omegas might mix, but they just don't mate.
Then Humphrey and Kate are captured by humans, who truck them off to Idaho to repopulate a park there, like Adam and Eve. While struggling to get back home with the assistance of a couple of friendly -- but not terribly funny -- waterfowl (Larry Miller and Eric Price), Humphrey and Kate get to know each other. You can guess the rest. Meanwhile, back home, Garth has also been getting to know a low-status wolf, Lily (Christina Ricci, whose talents are, if not wasted, at least undetectable to human ears).
The obstacles that stand in the way of Humphrey and Kate's safe return to Canada consist of, let's see, an angry bear. No, there isn't much else.
It's the most tepid of adventures. You could argue that it's fine for wee ones. But it's also borderline inappropriate for the same age group on account of the mating subject matter, and a couple of brief scenes of stampeding caribou and snarling wolves.
As for the character animation, the wolves are all pretty unexpressive, despite some strenuous vocal exertions, especially on the part of Long. Facially, they resemble stuffed animals in a zoo gift shop: cute and cuddly, but generic. And the female wolves, weirdly enough, all have human hairdos. Winston's mate (Vicki Lewis), for instance, looks a little like Hillary Clinton.
Even the 3-D is a waste. If I saw anything jump off the screen, it was the credits. The wolves themselves just sit there, tame and toothless.
Contains some gluteocentric humor, the threat of violence and roundabout discussion of wolf reproduction.