Without a Paddle : Nature’s Calling [DVD]

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 “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or “The Spirit”.

Direct-to-DVD sequels come in spades these days, and yes, a lot of them are rubbish – but there’s the odd one that’s actually rather good…. If even in a ‘Well, that was stupid but entertaining’ kinda-way. But what lets down lounge room premiere flicks like “American Pie : Band Camp”, “Dracula 2 : The Legacy”, “Time Cop : The Berlin Decision” and this one, “Without a Paddle : Nature’s Calling” is the lack of money on the screen (largely because the filmmakers haven’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 you’d see on the kid’s channel’s afternoon line-up – 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 “Without a Paddle” 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 – nope, not even a “My brother once told me about these three guys who went kayaking one year…” line) is quite a fun little movie. It’s got a couple of good laughs. Some energetic performances. And some nice backdrop. What it hasn’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 – 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 – critters that go straight for the face (or in one character’s case, the crotch). And the things look terrible – Sci-Fi Channel terrible. And it’s a pity, because up to this point, the sequel – the first of several new sequels (“Mean Girls 2” and “Naked Gun 4” are also on the way) from new-label Paramount Famous – was actually working. It wasn’t wowing me, but it was entertaining me.

The story – two best friends, and an English companion, head out into the forest to look for the Englishman’s half-sister – isn’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. That’s the point in which the film loses you – and not even two hot babes that live in the forest (more precisely, a ‘Swiss Family Robinson’-style tree house), introduced about fifteen minutes later, can win you back.

Still, points to director Ellory Elkayem (remember “Eight Legged Freaks”?) for keeping this thing on its tracks…. And serving up one of the better DTV sequels in recent years.

No Squirrels next-time please.

Extras

Gag reel, deleted scenes, and several featurettes – another bloody chance to show off those dodgy-looking Squirrels!