By Clint Morris
There really should be another rating, or star-system for reviewing direct-to-dvd movies. Why? Because it hardly think its fair giving something that actually entertains, and you unashamedly enjoy, despite its injustices, the same mark as a dog like â€œThe Day the Earth Stood Stillâ€ or â€œThe Spiritâ€.
Direct-to-DVD sequels come in spades these days, and yes, a lot of them are rubbish â€“ but thereâ€™s the odd one thatâ€™s actually rather goodâ€¦. If even in a â€˜Well, that was stupid but entertainingâ€™ kinda-way. But what lets down lounge room premiere flicks like â€œAmerican Pie : Band Campâ€, â€œDracula 2 : The Legacyâ€, â€œTime Cop : The Berlin Decisionâ€ and this one, â€œWithout a Paddle : Natureâ€™s Callingâ€ is the lack of money on the screen (largely because the filmmakers havenâ€™t been given any to make their movie). When effects look dodgy, American locations look off-puttingly Romanian, and CGI squirrels look worse than anything youâ€™d see on the kidâ€™s channelâ€™s afternoon line-up â€“ it near ruins the experience. And each of the above-mentioned films has suffered, in one way or another, from such fiscally-weak elements.
The â€œWithout a Paddleâ€ sequel (not that it has any real link to the forgettable Matthew Lillard/Seth Green/Dax Shephard comedy from a couple of years back; none of the characters in the first film are even referenced â€“ nope, not even a â€œMy brother once told me about these three guys who went kayaking one yearâ€¦â€ line) is quite a fun little movie. Itâ€™s got a couple of good laughs. Some energetic performances. And some nice backdrop. What it hasnâ€™t got (They may have spent most of the budget in acquiring a couple of 90s songs for the soundtrack) is money. There are moments in this film that look so dreadfully cheap, it almost makes your finger want to hump the stop button.
I speak mainly of the CGI squirrels â€“ yes, CGI squirrels.
In the original film, I recall something about the guys running into a monstrous bear. In this, the core trio come face-to-face with some frenzied squirrels â€“ critters that go straight for the face (or in one characterâ€™s case, the crotch). And the things look terrible â€“ Sci-Fi Channel terrible. And itâ€™s a pity, because up to this point, the sequel â€“ the first of several new sequels (â€œMean Girls 2â€ and â€œNaked Gun 4â€ are also on the way) from new-label Paramount Famous – was actually working. It wasnâ€™t wowing me, but it was entertaining me.
The story â€“ two best friends, and an English companion, head out into the forest to look for the Englishmanâ€™s half-sister – isnâ€™t much, but the performances of the mostly-newcomer cast, coupled with some really lovely locations (Oregon), keeps you interested. Right up until the half-way mark when those Commodore 64-created squirrels enter the picture. Thatâ€™s the point in which the film loses you â€“ and not even two hot babes that live in the forest (more precisely, a â€˜Swiss Family Robinsonâ€™-style tree house), introduced about fifteen minutes later, can win you back.
Still, points to director Ellory Elkayem (remember â€œEight Legged Freaksâ€?) for keeping this thing on its tracksâ€¦. And serving up one of the better DTV sequels in recent years.
No Squirrels next-time please.
Gag reel, deleted scenes, and several featurettes – another bloody chance to show off those dodgy-looking Squirrels!