Alpha and Omega

Posted on January 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

Two young Canadian wolves representing the extremes of the social scale join forces in the animated “Alpha and Omega,” which keeps them stuck in the bland middle. Though the visuals are in 3D, the film barely manages to register in one. “Alpha and Omega” gives us an episodic story with an uneasy mix of slapstick and peril that drains the momentum, along with lackluster art direction that saps the visual interest.

Kate (the voice of Hayden Panettiere) was born to be an alpha wolf, daughter of the pack leader and trained to hunt caribou. Humphrey (Justin Long) is the happy-go-lucky omega.

Caribou are getting scarce, and the uneasy truce between the wolves led by Tony (Dennis Hopper, in his penultimate role) and the wolves led by Kate’s father, Winston (Danny Glover), is fraying. There’s also some nattering about eastern vs. western wolves that makes them sound like rival college football teams or gangsta rappers.

Tony proposes that the packs join forces, with a marriage between Kate and his jock-like son to bring the two groups together. But American forest rangers capture Kate and Humphrey and carry them off to Idaho, hoping they will repopulate the area.

With some guidance from a golf-playing goose (even the wildly funny Larry Miller can’t give that character any vitality) Kate and Humphrey (an “African Queen” reference?) start for home. Their adventures on the way back include being shot at by a man who thinks Humphrey has rabies and being chased by bears who mistake Humphrey’s playful snowball for an attack on their cub.

Tony threatens war unless Kate shows up in time to marry his son and unite the packs. But Kate is not the only one to discover that alphas and omegas can make a good team.

Kate is an appealing heroine, and so it’s a relief to see an all-ages movie that does not require the responsible, capable character to “loosen up” and get in touch with her silly side or the fun-loving character to become serious to find love and happiness. But the script fails to give Kate and Humphrey some other purpose to propel the story forward. Despite a perilous road trip and an imminent feud between wolf factions, we do not see Kate and Humphrey learn or change in any way that seems to matter. The result is a story with all of the dramatic tension of a dial tone.

The movie depends on the difference between the two kinds of wolves, but it is oddly reluctant to decide what that means. The alphas act like, well, alphas: strong, brave, smart and kind of bossy. They are not unkind to the omegas but they are dismissive and condescending. There’s a half-hearted attempt to make the contribution of the omegas appear equivalent because they remind everyone to have fun and “keep the peace.” It seems forced and insincere, especially when the genuine contributions made by Humphrey come from being brave and smart, not funny and playful.

The background animation has some lovely touches but the character design is poor. It’s not accurate enough to make the wolves seem like animals and not expressive enough to make them seem like characters we can care about. The characters’ expressions during vertiginous drops on a hollow log sledding down a mountain are so flat that the 3-D effects just don’t matter.

We’ve been spoiled this year by two top-quality 3-D animated films, “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Despicable Me,” and one that qualifies as a masterpiece, “Toy Story 3.” Those films are the alphas that make this one seem like a Saturday morning cartoon show.

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3D Action/Adventure Animation Talking animals

11 Replies to “Alpha and Omega”

  1. I thought it was a very good movie. I mostly like the charactors Humphry, Kate, Lily and Tony. Lily is very cute. The biker and librarian couple were a trip. I think some verieity should have been given to the motor vehicles in the movie. The trucks belonging to Jasper Park, the park in Idaho and to the couple were all fashioned after late model Dodge trucks from about 2006 to 2008. Not everyone drives the same make, year and model vehicle. I would have done the locomotive for the train different, although the box cars were OK other than being a bit short in length. The two men, who worked for the truck stop, who thought Humphry was rabid were very well thought out with good charactor development. The 3D was done very good. Two examples were the rocking of the train cars as you sighted down the side of the train. And when Kate and Humphry rode inside the camper, it seemed like you could reach up and pull the suitcase Kate had her paws on. It was a sad moment near the end when it looked as though Kate was going to die from a hoof clop to the head from the caribu stampeede. I liked the movie well enough I went back four days later and saw it a second time(both times in 3D).

  2. I liked it too. The character design was actually spot on and beautiful. Not my favorite, but it satisfies a mood no other movie will. Some scenes I can relate to. Balanced and well crafted, great job crest studios!

  3. Well I agree with the reviewer for once. While I may not be in the age range the movie was shooting for, I tend to watch and enjoy a lot of movies targeted for a younger audience. And I always try to respect the work put into animation and focus on the good aspects of a film. However, I could not stop myself from making snide remarks throughout the entire movie. The animation was decent (better than Hoodwinked or Fly Me To The Moon anyway) but the story and even the humor was so forced and flat. I felt like I was watching a story my friends and I would’ve made up when we were 6. I thought the side romance between Lilly and Garth was adorable, but couldn’t get myself to find anything attractive about the other characters. The best part of the movie was the credits, when they showed all of the concept art. That gave me a sliver of respect for the movie, but otherwise it was probably one of the worst animated films I’ve seen this year. Maybe I’m just spoiled by things such as, like the reviewer said, How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 2. :/

  4. Peter, I’m always glad to hear from someone who sees more in a movie than I do. And Sarita, I’m always glad to hear from someone who agrees with me! Good point about the pleasure of seeing the concept drawings over the closing credits. If only the movie had lived up to them. Thanks to both of you.

  5. The designs are NOT poor, they were not meant to look real life, it’s a anthro style.. I will say that honestly, your review is wrong. 🙂

    1. I’m always glad to hear from someone who sees more in a film than I do, and glad to know this movie has a fan. I have given many good reviews to animated films that were far from real life, but for me (and opinions are opinions and not right or wrong), it is not a question of style (anthro can be very imaginative and striking), but of execution, and my opinion is that these were dull and second-rate, with a script that was at best third-rate. But I’m glad that my readers will have the opportunity to see another point of view and I do thank you for writing.

      1. Your welcome. 🙂

        But I want to offer (Sort of argue but don’t know for sure) something interesting and some possible facts:

        But though, in a “Critique” sense, a design can look like anything and even dull, even though, I don’t agree that it’s dull at all though.
        Like not every designs can be skilled, some can be less and some more, it’s all about purpose (They did these on purpose or chose to), and I could offer that these designs did have creativity.
        Lack of it would be generic designs; no hair, no expression, all bodies the same, etc..

        I also noticed that you suggested that the “designs” were “not enough” to look like “animals” but however, an anthropomorphic style isn’t always meant to look like that. They also wanted to avoid the “same looking wolf” thing to have personalities too I think. So what your quoting as a “problem” is what they intended to do, which means it’s no flaw in the critique.

        That’s my offer. 🙂

        And remembering: another thing is that “critique” senses are not meant to have personal experience in I think.
        Note: I could be mistaking your review as a “critic”, are you a critic? Or just a less-critique reviewer? Not sure.

        I also shouldn’t of said “your review is wrong” by only one thing right away, should of read more in case there may of been something I did agree.. lol

        1. Thanks for your reply! Not sure what distinction you are making between “critic” and “critique.” But as a critic, I express my opinions, just as you express yours. What I said was that the character design was poor because it was neither accurate nor expressive. Of course it does not have to be accurate to be good, but if it was, it would at least have justified the lack of expression and character. Whether or not what they did was what they intended to do, it did not succeed — in my opinion. But I am glad it worked for you.

          1. You sound more kind. 🙂

            I’m sorry if my comment is way too long for you though:

            Usually in terms of “Critics”, when someone suggest something as a problem, it’s often claimed to be as “fact” for a critique score. (I think). In a way, for “critics”, it’s often very important to keep a personal experience out unless it’s right to the purpose of something that exist I think. Another meaning would be that a “critic” can be argued because of the score.
            I asked if you were either a “critic” (Often for critique judging) or you were more of a “non-critic” where it’s not much about “critique” sometimes)

            “poor because it was neither accurate nor expressive.”
            Hmm like this for example, I will suggest that there models were not “incorrect” because there is no “real model” to follow; I.e.: They purposely wanted to make them look like that for the purpose of personalities I think.

            I will also suggest that they do give out personality (It’s also possible for them to express actions rather than design to have personality), enough that if they changed it, it would destroy it. Nearly all wolves have the characteristics, like did you noticed nearly all of them have different shapes? Hair, color, etc? That’s what they did to have them, but you seemed to say those are “incorrect” I think.

            There is a lot of fans who loves it, has it, etc. You also say it “did not succeed”, but however, the movie sold successfully and there was a lot of fans. Though, one major complaint was the story being “dull”, even though I disagree with that.

            I know my comment is long, I’m just trying to explain with an open mind as possible I think, and teaching what happened, etc. xD

          2. Thanks for your response! I am a critic, which means it is my job to state my opinion, and it is my opinion that this film did not succeed in achieving its own aspirations for making us connect to the characters or story. I think readers of critics’ reviews can tell when they are stating facts (who has what role, what the plot’s storyline is) and what is judgement. I agree with you that this is what the artists wanted them to look like, but I don’t agree that the result is appealing. The film’s performance at the box office was poor, but you are right that it does have its fans. I’m glad that readers of my site will have this chance to hear from someone who liked the film. You are more than welcome to post as many comments as long as you like on my site any time.

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