It could be said that Kiefer Sutherland is the next Sean
Connery, albeit of a lesser talent than the legendary Scot. Just as
Connery has barely ever modulated his voice in his film career (not
even when playing a Russian in “Hunt for the Red October”), Sutherland
has definitively proved in “The Wild” that his sandpapery baritone is
appropriate to any role he might undertake. The power of “Jack Bauer’s”
performance saves this fun but otherwise trivial computer-animated
Starring as Sampson the lion – the unimaginatively-named
leader of a band of quirky New York City Zoo animals who try to rescue
Sampson’s runaway son (Greg Cipes)—Sutherland brings a level of realism
to the beast he portrays that no other actor in the film can attain.
This is largely because the timbre of his voice enlivens his feline
alter-ego, while most everyone else manipulates his/her accent to the
point of incomprehensibility.
Better known for his TV series “24,” Sutherland should
seriously consider a voice-acting career. Not that he isn’t terrific in
“24,” it’s just that there’s dearth of talented actors who know how to
jazz up an animated character.
Nevertheless, it’s quite surprising that the rest of the
characters come off so flaccidly, considering the many stars who turned
out for “The Wild.” Benny the squirrel (Jim Belushi) barely left a dent
in my memory, which really surprises me considering his genius turn as
Simon the Monster Hunter in the Nickelodeon series “Aaahh!!! Real
Janeane Garofalo fails to transcend her real-life stature as
the towering giraffe Bridget—Benny’s love interest. Most unfortunately,
the omni-talented pansexual Eddie Izzard is barely intelligible as
Nigel the blathering British koala. I suppose the second-rate direction
by first-timer Steve “Spaz” Williams is to blame.
Thank God the real talents of this film, like Sutherland,
more-or-less direct themselves, otherwise “The Wild” would be too
trivial to recommend (despite the terrific animation). William Shatner,
taking a break from his deservedly thankless stint on “Boston Legal,”
hilariously empowers Kazar, a diabolical carnivorous
wildebeest-choreographer, in a nearly show-stopping display of dramatic
versatility. But the show remains Sutherland’s in the end, as Kazar
appears too infrequently to co-opt the film.
Disney’s latest anthropomorphic offering, once again, proves
the remarkable power of the lead actor. Tim Allen single-handedly
destroyed “The Shaggy Dog,” dragging down the excellent performances of
his supporting cast. In “The Wild,” Sutherland overcomes the mediocrity
of his fellow actors—one fearsome roar amidst a din of discordant
BOTTOM LINE: While it pales in comparison to “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story,” Kiefer Sutherland makes “The Wild” worthwhile.