Crummy frat-boy gross-out comedies are a dime a dozen in this Age of Apatow, but few are as astoundingly awful as “Strange Wilderness,” which appears to have been slapped together from really lame improvisations by its weirdly eclectic cast of young second bananas (Steve Zahn, Justin Long, Jonah Hill) and embarrassed veterans (Joe Don Baker, Harry Hamlin, Robert Patrick and, heaven help us, Ernest Borgnine), though it’s actually based by writers Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf (the latter of whom also directed, in a slovenly fashion) on old “Saturday Night Live” sketches. The picture was financed, in part at least, by an outfit that calls itself Level 1 Entertainment, which seems a misnomer given the bargain-basement quality of the product.
The script—to use the term loosely—involves a bunch of stooges who go off on a journey to Ecuador to save their idiotic wildlife television program, threatened with cancellation by their boss (Jeff Garlin, from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) by finding Big Foot. They’re racing a slick rival (Hamlin) for the scoop, but the main obstacles facing them are their own ineptitude and stupidity.
Everyone involved in this debacle—in which the laughs prove more elusive than Sasquatch—should be deeply ashamed, from Adam Sandler’s production company, which helped finance it, to every member of the cast. Zahn comes off worst, simply because he’s the lead: he has a couple of “going crazy” moments that are cruelly extended. But nobody emerges unscathed, given the appalling amount of scatological language and suggestive situations everybody shows himself willing to engage in. (When Jesse Metcalfe wore a thong in “John Tucker Must Die,” it was bad enough—but Jonah Hill?) And it’s difficult to laugh at violent moments when people get their teeth kicked out are sliced in two or are literally consumed by sharks and piranha.
On the technical side, the cinematography (by David Hennings) and sound work (by David MacMillan) are mediocre, but still far better than the material deserves: you can still see and hear what’s happening on the screen.
To be fair to the movie, this viewer saw it in the company of a handful of other paying customers. Three of them were brain-addled males of high-school age (perhaps a bit of redundancy there), and of them one occasionally laughed. That highly unscientific sample suggests that a third of mentally defective people might enjoy “Strange Wilderness.” It’s up to you to decide if you might be among them.