Lion cub Ryan lives in the shadow of his mighty father, Samson, who rules the New York Zoo with legendary jungle stories of his ferocious roar and intimidating prowl. It doesn't help that instead of terrifying herds, the youngster's own roar is so wimpy it "makes the babies laugh." So after he and his dad get in yet another spat, Ryan decides to recklessly pursue his dream of escaping to the wild—which he thinks will help him develop his roar—and spends the night in a container due to be shipped the next morning.
As soon as the container's doors are shut and he's toted off, Ryan realizes he's made a bad decision. So does Samson, who's determined to get his son back. Joined by his best friend, Benny the squirrel, a giraffe named Bridget, Nigel the koala and a dimwitted anaconda named Larry, Samson ventures all the way to Africa in search of Ryan. Once there, however, he's forced to expose a tightly held secret that puts the entire group in peril.
Samson repeatedly risks his life to save Ryan. He also encourages his son's attempts to sharpen his lion instincts and later apologizes for tossing out some harsh words. Ryan, meanwhile, tells the group he's sorry for getting them into such a mess. He also tries to prevent a couple of daring youths from following through with a rebellious act—though he eventually gets blamed for the matter. When Samson reveals that his own father was unloving, Ryan affirms his dad ("I'm sorry you didn't have a father like the one I have").
Several moments within the movie re-emphasize the value of friendship and loyalty. Benny proves to be a faithful friend to Samson, explaining that "best friends should stick together." He also encourages the lion more than once, especially when he's scared to face the truth. "It doesn't matter where you come from—it's in here," he says, pointing to Samson's heart. "That's what makes you who you are." Other animals confess their frustrations about trying to be something they're not. Samson thanks his squirrel buddy.
[Spoiler Warning] Samson has lied to Ryan and his friends about his past. Turns out, he was shipped off from a circus at an early age and has never been in the wild. In fact, his roar isn't this all-powerful force that he's built it up to be, and he's too timid to eat or even attack another live animal. While this ongoing lie causes others grief, the movie is careful to make the point that it's better to be proud of who you are than pile up the lies. Samson admits to others that he's a phony and apologizes to his son.
Once in Africa, Samson and Co. encounter a herd of wildebeests who, under the command of the ruthless Kazar, want to become carnivores. Kazar is tired of being at the lower end of the food chain, and even more frustrated with being chased by Samson's kind. According to him, "the gods" sent an omen years before that prophesied of the day the tables would be turned.
When Nigel shows up, it seems that day has come. The wildebeests bow down and worship him as a savior/god (he's even called "The Great Him"), and they make statements such as, "Oh Great Him, we are healed by your power." Gloating in his newfound clout, Nigel replies, "I've got miracles coming out of my ears." Characters also talk of how the "cosmic balance has shifted."
The G-rated Wild doesn't stray too far here, but it's worth noting for families that the love-struck Benny and Bridget (who's adamantly independent) have an ongoing debate over whether they're dating or not, and the two end up kissing. When Benny ogles his giraffe girlfriend, she tells him to stop "staring at my spots ... my eyes are up here." Along with comments about people looking at his backside, Nigel jokes about licking himself—and humans' failure to do so.
When the koala is roughed up by a couple of wildebeests, he jokes, "Hey, I'm not that kind of koala bear." And after pulling a popcorn bucket out of the garbage and wearing it as a dress, he asks his friends, "Do I look trashy in this?" At the end of the movie, Larry (strangely) dresses up as a woman. Bridget comments about needing a good sports bra while running away from a couple of pursuers.
Lots of slapstick comedy includes animals hitting each other over the head, getting punched or slapped, falling from heights or moving vehicles, and being stepped on or squashed. Samson and Kazar fight hard, with each getting tossed against a wall. The latter is also struck by a rock and sends a goon sprawling off a cliff. Offscreen, a wildebeest is assumed to be crushed by a crumbling volcano. Another hoofed animal smashes into a rock, then is poked by the horns of one of his own kind.
An animal-driven boat nearly collides with a massive vessel and grazes another. Ryan is almost trampled in a couple of different situations, and he falls from a tree. Samson also takes a spill from an extreme height. Benny ends up getting rammed into Samson's nostril. Nigel hits himself in the groin while landing on a fence. There's also plenty of talk about animals eating each other, ripping heads off, and getting shot at and stuffed.
Crude or Profane Language
Besides repeatedly mentioning his "bum" and "rump," Nigel uses the word "bloody" once. Various characters utter "what the heck" three times and leave potentially imitable statements unfinished ("what the ...," "I'll kick your ..." and "Why, you little ..."). "Jeesh" and "gosh" are each used once. Name-calling includes "stupid," "twit" and "brat." A goon is said to be "screwing up."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Gags revolving around bodily functions include at least a couple instances of animals caught in the act of relieving themselves. Nigel alludes to soiling himself and vomiting. A pigeon gets hit in the face by—you guessed it—bird droppings. A turtle emits gas. Ripped straight from A Bug's Life, European-accented dung beetles talk about how "rolling the dung is good for tight buns."
A couple of young animals skip out on attending a sports event and instead cause trouble by planning to chase gazelles. Ryan and Samson both exchange heated words that include the cub making a negative comment about Samson being his dad. Nigel steals a zoo souvenir but claims he's merely "borrowing" it. Penguins cheat during a game of curling.
There's no race as heated as the animated-movie industry's sprint to be first to theaters with a "new" concept. In 1998, Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life beat DreamWorks' Antz to the tape by an insect's antenna. Five years later, Disney/Pixar repeated as victor when Finding Nemo edged out DreamWorks' Shark Tale by at least a full spawning season. Last year, DreamWorks finally emerged as the quicker whip with its zoo animal adventure, Madagascar.
In each case, there have been cries of foul play, with the "loser" declaring that their movie's idea was swiped by the competition. (Surely not in Hollywood!) And in every situation, the first to reach the big screen turned out to be the better—and more profitable—movie. Meanwhile, the second-place finisher was left with the tarnishing labels of "wannabe," "mimic" and "good, but not as good as ..."
This time Disney has secured second place with its version of the zoo-animals-gone-wild story. And truth be told, even if The Wild were up against 50 other competitors, it would still probably end up at the back of the pack. Apparently aiming at the 4-and-under crowd with loud, grating and well-worn attempts at humor, the filmmakers seem to bank on the fact that moviegoers will completely overlook just how unoriginal the material here is.
A dad traverses the seas to track down his son. Didn't we see that in Finding Nemo? A perilous garbage compacter scene. That's ripped straight out of Star Wars: Episode IV. The funny-fuzzy-guy-treated-like-a-god routine? That was highlighted in Ice Age: The Meltdown.
Add up these and other copycat segments and the final mix is what should've been a straight-to-DVD effort. Instead, parents who decide the film's potty humor, double entendres, language issues and slapstick violence aren't that big of a deal will be forced to stay awake at the multiplex hoping young ears and eyes will also catch a few positive messages. Namely, ones that accentuate the importance of parent-child relationships and how being true to yourself is better than living a lie.
But most likely, kids will end up spending their time pointing to the screen and asking why this lion's name isn't Alex, or what happened to the funny giraffe from "that last movie."
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of Kiefer Sutherland as Samson; Jim Belushi as Benny; Janeane Garofalo as Bridget; Eddie Izzard as Nigel; William Shatner as Kazar; Richard Kind as Larry; Greg Cipes as Ryan
Steve "Spaz" Williams ( )