By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Jack London may be spinning in his grave over "Alpha and Omega" (Lionsgate), the story of two very hip wolves who hear a call to the wild side and embark on the ultimate road trip. Despite colorful animation and eye-popping 3D effects, this adventure falls back upon a tired — if kid-approved — formula of bathroom humor, slapstick action and wisecracking characters.
Deep in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, two rival wolf packs fight for dominance in a valley where the supply of nourishment is dwindling. "Any food is a blessing," a wolf mother tells her hungry kids. (The lack of fresh caribou does present an opportunity for "veggie-terrier" wolves to picket, though, chanting, "Stop the Insanity! Go Organic!").
Intoning wisdom and warnings are the elder statesmen of their respective packs, Winston (voice of Danny Glover) and Tony (voice of Dennis Hopper, in his last film role). They hatch a plan to unite the packs and share the valley’s resources through the marriage of their children, Kate (voice of Hayden Panettiere) and Garth (voice of Chris Carmack). Trouble is, independent, disciplined Kate, an "Alpha" wolf, is not fond of hunky fitness-fanatic Garth, who in turn only has eyes for Kate’s airhead sister, Lilly (voice of Christina Ricci).
What ensues is a cross between "West Side Story" and "Beverly Hills 90210." Female wolves, all made up and blow-dried, meet their urban-chic mates at the "Moonlight Howl," a mountainside discotheque. Needless to say, there are a lot of grunts and "grrrs," some innocent rubbing of noses and pretty clumsy dancing, much of it in slow motion.
Pining for Kate is Humphrey (voice of Justin Long), her spiritual opposite. As an "Omega" wolf, Humphrey is free-spirited and fun-loving. Kate is out of his reach in a strict caste system where "we can eat together but not howl together."
This lupine soap opera kicks into gear when disaster strikes. Kate and Humphrey are shot with tranquilizer darts by forest rangers and shipped off to Idaho, where the wolf population is on the decline. "They want you big wolves to make a lot of little wolves," explains the local sage, a golf-playing Canadian goose called Marcel (Larry Miller).
But there’s no love connection between Kate and Humphrey — yet. Propagation is sidelined as the duo embarks on a challenging 1,000-mile journey home. Only time will tell if they make it back safely, restore peace among the wolves and live happily ever after.
Despite potty jokes some parents may not appreciate, co-directors Anthony Bell ("Barnyard") and Ben Gluck’s ("Brother Bear 2") "Alpha and Omega" is basically harmless fun for the entire family. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.