For anyone over the age of 5, Lionsgate’s newest animated feature ALPHA AND OMEGA is a test of patience at best and sanity at worst. Centered around the forbidden love between members of the highest and lowest castes of Canadian wolf packs – the Alphas and the Omegas, respectively – this poorly animated 3-D film deserves a full review only for hosting one of Dennis Hopper’s final performances.
Living in Jasper National Park, the Western Pack of wolves is separated by their talents: the Alphas, born hunters and naturally beautiful, bring home the caribou for their lesser pack members, the weak, dorky Omegas. One such prime Alpha named Kate (striking an uncanny resemblance to and voiced by Hayden Panettiere of HEROES) is kidnapped, along with a childhood friend named Humphrey (Justin Long, shlubby underwolf incarnate), by park rangers for the sole purpose of repopulating Idaho’s wolf population. As the two of them are transported across borders by fat rangers and civilians alike, the film forces them to fall in love amongst snowball fights, full moons, and bear chases. Kate’s disappearance, however, disables her marriage to a rival Alpha and puts her pack at risk of invasion by the Eastern Pack, led by the fiercely named Tony (Dennis Hopper). Tony’s wolfson, Garth (Chris Carmack, the best-cast voice of the film), not only doesn’t want to marry Kate, but would rather marry her sister who – believe this or not – is also an Omega (Christina Ricci). Love and war impending, Kate and Humphrey hurry back to Canada to set the packs at ease and nuzzle noses and howl at the moon. Lovely.
None of the aspects of the film seem to work together properly, though I can imagine the lack of structure does not bother the target 3-6 year old audiences. The tacky computer graphics are by a company called Crest Animation Productions; the CGI does not even begin to compete visually with the flair of a Disney, Dreamworks, or Pixar film. Voice work in general is fine, with some creepy-violent yelling by Vicki Lewis as Kate’s mother, Eve. I found myself a bit disappointed to hear the legendary Hopper performing with Danny Glover on such a film.
Attempts at originality rarely shine through; unfortunately, they are usually the cause for any mature audience’s alarm. Howling at the moon, for example, has become pop-star crooning, which sounds even worse against Christopher Bacon’s shaky score than on the radio. The film’s only laughs come from the only interesting characters, a French-Canadian golf-playing goose named Marcel (somebody give Larry Miller more voice work) and his obnoxious but amiable duck-caddy (Eric Price). Otherwise, jokes do not simply fall flat; they inspire riots. One such jest, about “the repopulation of Idaho”, is one of dozens of horrible sexual innuendos in the screenplay by Chris Denk and Steve Moore, which may or may not have been written in the form of bullet-points and submitted unedited.
ALPHA AND OMEGA (U.S. Release: Sept. 17, 2010). Directed by: Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck. Screenplay by: Chris Denk and Steve Moore. Voices: Justin Long – Humphrey, Hayden Panettiere – Kate, Dennis Hopper – Tony, Danny Glover – Winston, Larry Miller – Marcel, Christina Ricci – Lilly, Chris Carmack – Garth, Eric Price – Paddy/Mooch, Vicki Lewis – Eve.