It’s a little unsettling to approach a third entry in the unexpected “Open Season” franchise and find that, once again, most of the primary voices have been recast. It seems the title can’t keep a good star around. To combat this predicament, the producers have decided to do away with stunt casting all together. The result is a fresher, funnier sequel that executes slapstick comedy with more creative freedom, using its tiny budget and DTV status to find its own personal path of irreverence with these goofy forest creatures.
All bear Boog (voiced by Matthew J. Munn, easily the best Boog yet) wants to do is celebrate Guys’ Night with deer pal Elliot (Matt Taylor). When plans fall through due to Elliot’s parental commitments, Boog is disheartened, fearing he’s been replaced. Taking his concerns to a local circus, Boog is tricked by stunt bear (and doppelganger) Doug (Munn), who swaps places with the lonely grizzly, eager to break out and find “Bearvana,” away from his big top demands. Boog quickly finds his place in the loopy circus gang of animals, developing a crush on fellow bear performer, Ursa (Melissa Sturm). As Doug settles into Boog’s life, the woodland community begins to grow suspicious, baffled about their neglected buddy’s new attitude.
The downside to “Open Season 3” is the film’s financial restrictions. Made on the cheap, the animation is a clear step down from the previous two efforts. It’s not an ugly picture by any stretch of the imagination, it just lacks considerable polish, reducing once fluid characters to blocky movements with questionable lip-synch. Hardly distracting stuff, but the dip in quality is immediately noticeable. Thankfully, this is the only major drawback of the film.
To swat away the low-budget blues, director Cody Cameron (best known as the voice of Pinocchio in the “Shrek” series) serves up a fast-paced ride of mistaken identities for this second sequel. Working with a blessedly simple screenplay by David I. Stern (who also wrote the last sequel), Cameron is free to develop the “Open Season” universe his way, creating a new set of nutty characters in Boog’s circus pals (including a feline orchestra and a spitty Argentinean llama), while also juggling the gang established in the first two films. Balancing the madcap action with a great deal of charm, Cameron sticks low to the ground, leading with the characters and their amusing neuroses, preferring to spotlight comedic episodes over a laborious run of regret from Boog.
The efficient direction and sillyhearted screenwriting supplies a direct shot of animated comedy, with the production piping in the proper amount of silly business to keep viewers on their toes. Interestingly, “Open Season 3” appears constructed to entertain the filmmakers more than any potential audience, with a slew of sly jokes and references (including a slick “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” nod) crammed into the corners of the film, leaving a few gags worthy of a double take -- a running bit with Fifi (Crispin Glover, perhaps the biggest name of the cast) frantically searching for replacement Baoding balls (the hand-rolling kind) right after his neutering is indicative of the tomfoolery on display here.
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) is alive with all those animation behaviors and colors. Despite a lowered standard of CG smoothness, the visuals sustain a terrific position on the BD, giving the viewer a ride of rich, bold hues (the circus sequences pop superbly) and appealing textures, primarily emerging from animal hair and forest excursions. Colors are confident, while shadow detail is supportive, crisply detailing nighttime sequences. For what the film has to offer visually, this disc delivers it all without any hiccups.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is an undemanding track of cartoon merriment, exploring the finer edges of slapstick without pushing the energy overboard. There’s a winning circular feel for the dialogue, which allows the cacophony of voice work to be detected cleanly in group settings. Environmental changes are handled well, permitting the circus sequences a true concert feel, with crowd atmospherics winningly portioned out. Soundtrack cuts and scoring cues are laced into the antics appropriately, never intruding on the action. Low-end is minimal at best. French, Spanish, and Portuguese tracks are also included.
English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are offered.
“Rabbit Splat Mode” presents the viewer with an opportunity to hurl rabbits at the screen during the movie. It’s not a game, just a BD-filler oddity.
“Boog’s Cannon Blast Game” is an “Angry Birds” type contest that pits the “Season” gang against balls and boxes in an effort to free their bear pal.
“Progression Reel” (1:05) is a short look at the development of the animation, from storyboard to finish.
A Trailer has not been included.
At 69 minutes, “Open Season 3” knows to hit the laughs and take a bow, forgoing the industry demand that animation films should stop dead to crowbar in some form of poignancy. Short, sweet, and chock full of entertaining animated personalities, the sequel is perhaps the most enjoyable of the series. Maybe a limited budget and a team of voice actors, not stars, is exactly what this increasingly cheeky franchise needed.