Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Strange Wilderness is a very stupid comedy. It’s also kind of raunchy, but it’s mostly just stupid. Almost all of the humor that it’s going to generate comes from either stupidity or absurdity regarding either the characters or the situations that they find themselves in. If the film already sounds like it’s not for you, you have no reason to finish this review, as it won’t be. There’s a very specific target audience here, and if you don’t fit into it, you simply won’t have any fun.
Some comedies are still watchable if you’re not in the proper group, as they do enough right outside of their brand of comedy to be enjoyable. Not this one. Strange Wilderness, if you don’t find the stupid and outrageous situations and characters funny, would be absolutely dreadful. If you’re not laughing, you’re going to turn to the other elements of the film to try to find something of value. You’ll come up short with this movie. There is nothing of worth outside of the comedy — and many could argue that even that is worthless.
Even though the film has a terrible grasp of a little thing most people call “storytelling,” you won’t have trouble following along; it’s just too familiar a basic plot for you to get lost. There’s a guy called Peter (Steve Zahn), he is running his late father’s nature television show into the ground, and is going to make a last-ditch effort to save it by hunting down Bigfoot. He begins the film as a man-child kind of character, and ends slightly less so. Of course he’ll need to learn how to be a slightly better person. How else would he go about capturing footage of Bigfoot?
Strange Wilderness initially appears like it’s going to be a road movie. All of the members of Peter’s crew — including characters played by Jonah Hill, Justin Long, Allen Covert and Ashley Scott — get into an RV and head out on the road. They have to go through a large number of areas before getting to Bigfoot’s cave, but this is par for the course in road movies. What ends up happening is not as fluid. Basically, we just head from scene to scene, location to location, without any coherency or thought. Trying to figure out why the characters went this way is like trying to determine why Ernest Borgnine appears in a few scenes in this movie.
A lot of this movie has been ad-libbed. At least, that’s the appearance that it gives off. Maybe there was a script at one point, and maybe some of the actors based their lines off it, but I would wager that the majority of the Strange Wilderness that you can see has been improvised while shooting. Granted, you have decent actors to be doing that — Steve Zahn and Jonah Hill, especially — but if they’re going to be changing their lines with every take, whose job is it to weed out the best ones?
Whoever it was, and by all guesses it was a bunch of people including Happy Madison founder and executive producer Adam Sandler, was not very representative of typical audiences. Simply put, most people who have the potential to watch this movie are not going to find a lot of it funny. Maybe the editors didn’t have a lot to choose from, but they didn’t select the best clips for widespread appeal. Hey, I’m all for niche movies, but those movies still have to be good apart from the focus — in this case, the jokes — and Strange Wilderness just isn’t.
I say all of this as someone who was giggling along through large sections of the film. I didn’t think going in that I would find it funny, but I was in the right mindset to watch stupid people on a screen for an hour and a half, and I had fun. No, it wasn’t actually a well-made movie, but many of the jokes were funny and I can’t remember being bored, save for a couple of scenes that seemed to drag on and on. That includes, unfortunately, the Bigfoot reveal. That is the point in time when the movie really falters.
In what could have been a potentially gut-wrenching scene. the reveal was handled poorly and without humor. I won’t spoil it, even though it’s definitely not the focus of the move — after it’s over the characters just kind of move on with their lives — but I won’t give it away anyway. Just imagine how you would handle a bunch of stupid people encountering Bigfoot, and you’ll be more satisfied, as pretty much anything would have been better than what happened here.
By the end of the film, I did have one question: Why is Peter’s television show going off the air in the first place? The ratings are apparently terrible, but I don’t understand why. The few clips that we got of the show were the highlights of the film. I laughed louder and with greater regularity during these 30 second clips than during the rest of the film. How they managed to get poor ratings is beyond me. Perhaps we just got to see the highlight reels.
Strange Wilderness is a very dumb comedy that has nothing else propelling it forward other than dumb comedy. If you like dumb comedy, then you’ll probably find a lot to laugh at here. If you don’t, then stay very clear as there isn’t a single other thing here to watch for after you get past the jokes. Everything about this movie is awful, apart from the jokes, most of which I’m almost afraid to admit that I laughed at.