Alpha and Omega Directed by: Anthony Bell, Ben Gluck Cast: (voices) Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper Running Time: 1 hr 28 min Rating: PG Release Date: September 17, 2010
PLOT: Alpha wolves are trained to be the pack hunters, whereas omega wolves are supposed to be the goofy comic relief. The two groups can't intermarry. This makes it harder for the fun-loving Humphrey (Long), because he's crazy in love with the top alpha, Kate (Panettiere). When Humphrey and Kate are darted and relocated from Canada to Idaho to repopulate, Humphrey finally has a chance to prove he's worthy of Kate's affection.
WHO'S IT FOR? Kids. No surprise there, right? Except, it's always nice when the adults can enjoy it, too. Warning: Alpha and Omega is tolerable for one, maybe two viewings for anyone over thirteen.
EXPECTATIONS: I was really hoping for something cute and diverting. "Come on, cute and diverting!" I chanted as I found my seat.
Justin Long as Humphrey: I vowed never to give Justin Long a score lower than a '5' unless he ever personally punched me in the face, and that still stands. He's adorable and you like Humphrey more because you know it's Justin Long. This means that without Justin Long, Humphrey is as bland as the rest of the movie. Long does the best he can with the watered-down writing, but there's not much he can do. Score: 5
Hayden Panettiere as Kate: Panettiere should do more voice work, because she's a natural. I expected it from everyone else besides her and I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, give her a role with Pixar, and she will rock it. So, she pulls it off for the kids, who won't notice; and, if you're like me, you'll spend the whole time thinking, "Gee, with a better script, this would be cake for you!" Alas, like Long, Panettiere can only do so much with a weak script. Score: 6
TALKING: The writing is dumb and boring. A few of the lines don't make any sense, like someone tampered with them and no one caught it. There is one really funny line, but it's tossed in so casually, I'm not sure they even recognized how funny it is...which means it comes off as a happy accident. Score: 3
SIGHTS: Mostly, the movie looks beautiful and the 3-D adds to the experience, instead of coming off as an afterthought meant to wheedle more money out of the public. But the animation is strangely inconsistent: sometimes it's fine, and sometimes it's sub-par. The scene where the two heads of the pack are trying to escape from an elk stampede almost looks like an invisible person playing with wolf figurines. Score: 5
SOUNDS: I like the sound of wolves howling. I think it's beautiful, expressive, and somewhat haunting. And I get why the filmmakers decided to "translate" for us what the howls might sound like to other wolves, but the cheesy, soulful "wooo-wooo-woooing" was kind of painful. Score: 2
BEST SCENE: Humphrey decides to befriend a baby bear. As soon as it started, I knew it was going to be my favorite scene in the whole movie.
ENDING: Obvious to everyone. Actually, the formula comes off as pretty lazy here.
QUESTIONS: It's a great idea and there are a lot of talented writers out there. Why?
REWATCHABILITY: Please, God, no. It wasn't offensive, but it felt really long and really dull.
Alpha and Omega is a tough movie to review, because I'm not its intended audience. If I had kids, I would gladly take them to see it once and I could sit through it just that once. If they wanted me to buy it for them for birthdays or Christmas, I would gladly put it on for them and then go off for me time. But I do feel like I'd go insane if I were forced to watch Alpha and Omega over and over again, whereas I would willingly watch Wall-E or Spirited Away a thousand times in a row. In my mind, a quality kid's movie is one where the kids and the adults can enjoy the movie equally, for their own individual reasons. If it's boring for adults, but the kids would still like it, it probably still hits the mark.
I asked several kids from the audience what they thought of Alpha and Omega and they all gave it enthusiastic, glowing reviews. "What would you give it between a one and a ten?" I asked them and they all, invariably, said, "Ten!" Which is further proof that kids have a nearly endless capacity for innocent love.
What this tells you is that it will be a hit with your kids, but you might be dragging yourself through it. And, really, since you've already had to sit through Winnie the Pooh Bakes Cookies and Stupid Parent Pratfalls, maybe you're completely hardened to this sort of thing.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10