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"WILD AMERICA"
(1997) (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, Scott Bairstow) (PG)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor Minor Mild Moderate Mild
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate Mild Mild None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Minor Mild Mild Mild Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Adventure: A trio of brothers in the 1960's set out across America to film endangered wildlife.
PLOT:
Marty (SCOTT BAIRSTOW), Mark (DEVON SAWA), and Marshall Stouffer (JONATHAN TAYLOR THOMAS) are three brothers in the 1960's who, went not helping their father, Marty Sr. (JAMEY SHERIDAN) and his carburetor business, are out making home movies. While twelve-year-old Marshall must deal with being the subject of his older brothers' experimental films, he often secretly and subtly retaliates against them. When Marty is shown a professional film camera, however, he gets the idea of "shooting" wildlife and capturing America's wild animals on film before they're killed off. Their dad reluctantly agrees to let Mark tag along on Marty's adventure, but little do they, or their mother Agnes (FRANCES FISHER), know that Marshall is a stowaway in their truck until they're too far away to return him. From that point on, the brothers experience life on their own, as well as encounters with an alligator, moose, and a cave of hibernating bears that not only challenge their film making skills, but their safety as well.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Since the film appears to be geared for younger kids, it's a good possibility. Also, those who are fans of Thomas (of TV's "Home Improvement") will probably want to see him in this.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For language and some adventure peril.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • SCOTT BAIRSTOW plays the oldest brother, and the main instigator in putting Marshall through some dangerous rigors while making his films. He idolizes Ernest Hemingway, but decides to "shoot" animals with his camera instead of with a gun.
  • DEVON SAWA plays the middle brother whose raging hormones draw his attention more to girls than film, but he still does some dangerous stunts while making movies.
  • JONATHAN TAYLOR THOMAS plays the youngest brother who often secretly and subtly retaliates against his siblings for putting him through the paces to make their films.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    This is something of a strange film in that its direction and storytelling often make it appear to be aimed for little kids, while its outward appearance looks more like it's geared for the young teen set. Director William Dear's ("Angels in the Outfield," "Harry and the Hendersons") style often works well, especially in the outdoor adventure scenes photographed in splendor by cinematographer David Burr. At other times, however, the movie appears choppy and often gets downright ridiculous -- the latter of which reinforces the belief that the movie's geared for the younger crowd. For example, the brothers find themselves surrounded by angry bears awakened from their deep hibernation. You may wonder how the boys get out of this predicament. Well, they simply sing the song their father sings at home that they fall asleep to, and voila -- the bears lay down and go to sleep as well. While little kids will think this is funny, older children and adults will find this to be ludicrous. Similarly, younger kids won't question how Marshall expertly flies and lands a plane for the first time in his life without lessons, but the rest of us will be disheartened by this lack of realism. At another time, Marshall rides atop a moose's antlers and then we suddenly see both racing down a river's rapids. How they got there is unanswered, but probably is lying on the cutting room floor along with many other scenes that would have given the film a more continuous and smoother feeling. Still, the movie has a certain charm about it, and you can't help but liking it despite its shortcomings. The scenes with Marshall and his brothers work well, especially earlier in the production. One can easily see why young girls swoon over Jonathan Taylor Thomas, for his screen charisma shines brightly and he brings about a great deal of the film's fun scenes. Still, one has to wonder how many liberties writer David Michael Wieger took with the truth in this story, as much of it often seems hard to swallow (not as a movie, but as the truth). What's also missing are all of the wildlife scenes. Sure there are a few here and there, and perhaps in the real journey the brothers didn't encounter any more, but in the credits roll there are many such scenes. After seeing them, you wish there was more of that in the body of the film, for much of the wildlife footage is as entertaining as the film itself. Had the film used more of them, and less of the fake -- and low budget -- looking effects (bears and some explosions) and the miscast and very brief cameos (Danny Glover as a wild man of the woods), it would be a much more enjoyable experience for older viewers. Still, kids seemed to love it during our screening, so the film makers achieved their apparent goal -- to entertain the little ones. As said above, you have to like the feeling the movie presents, even while seeing the obvious and often glaring problems. We give "Wild America" a 4 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The three biggest areas of concern in this film are the imitative behavior, a few scary scenes for younger kids, and some mild profanity. The brothers in this film often perform quite daring, and potentially dangerous, stunts to be recorded on film, and some kids might try to do the same or invent their own. For very young kids, a few scenes might prove to be rather scary to them and involve wild animals. The worst of the profanity is 3 "s" words, and the rest of the categories are mild at their worst. Since kids will probably want to see this film, we suggest that you examine its content before allowing them to do so.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • A farm hand stops his tractor and drinks a beer.
  • Marty and several friends drink beer before a film screening and they give a girl a flask from which she then drinks.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Marty has blood on his hands after having just put a wounded deer out of its misery.
  • The boys meet a woman who has severe scars (from a bear attack) on one side of her face.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Marty and Mark use their younger brother as a guinea pig in many of their films.
  • The boys' father wants to keep the boys at home and often doesn't support their dreams and wishes (some may see that as a bad attitude), although he eventually lets them go.
  • The boys flatten down, and then drive over, a barb-wire fence (trespassing).
  • The boys return to their truck only to find that it's been broken into and everything's been stolen.
  • Another boy has a bad attitude toward the brothers and says that their film wasn't any good and then demands his money back just to be spiteful.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • There's a brief scene where a boy shoots a deer with a cross bow that may be upsetting to some kids.
  • Mark reads stories about bear attacks that scare Marshall.
  • An old, grizzled alligator hunter talks about an encounter with a gator and then suddenly stabs a knife into his own wooden leg.
  • There's a scene where the boys are looking for alligators and Mark ends up wading through chest high swamp water and then disappears under the water. Marshall jumps in to save him and then has a close encounter with a gator that comes after him.
  • A moose chases Marshall who, moments later, finds himself being swept down a river's rapids.
  • The brothers find a cave of hibernating bears. They must then deal with rattlesnakes that strike at them and with bears that do the same (and some bats) as the boys try to get out of the cave.
  • Marshall briefly loses the piece of wood attached to his foot that's allowing him to fly a plane.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Crossbow & Knife: The first used by another boy to shoot a deer and the latter used by Marty to put the deer out of its misery.
  • Knife: Stabbed by an old alligator hunter into his own wooden leg.
  • Aerial bombs: Dropped by fighter planes during practice that almost hit the boys who are unknowingly on government land.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Screw" (non sexual), "Suckers," "Bastard," and "Idiot."
  • There are two brief farting scenes, one involving the father, and the other with the boys imitating their father.
  • Marty and Mark hoist Marshall by a rope up above an above ground swimming pool. He's belted to the chair and they cut the rope, sending him into, and under, the water. They then throw lit firecrackers into the water, and he holds his breath until they're done.
  • In retaliation for the above, Marshall takes his brothers' toothbrushes and rubs them inside the toilet rim.
  • A film shows Marshall (with lots of padding on) being blown into the air by firecrackers attached to his feet and legs. We also see Mark on a roof, skating down toward a ramp at the edge and momentarily going airborne before crashing to the ground.
  • Marty and Mark pull Marshall along behind their dune buggy (and over large bumps and through lots of mud) on an old metal hood. At the end, he flies up over a bump and flies through the air landing in some mud.
  • Marty and Mark go through a blood-brothers type ritual where they drop hot lead (from a soldering iron) down inside their shirt backs and finally out through their pants leg.
  • On their way out of town, Mark throws firecrackers at the other kids as they drive by them.
  • Marshall is a stowaway on his brothers' trip, and doesn't pop out until they're too far away to turn back.
  • Marshall fills his brothers' canteens just yards downstream from where they're relieving themselves. Later, the brothers drink from these canteens.
  • An old, grizzled alligator hunter talks about an encounter with a gator and then stabs a knife into his own leg (it's wooden) and gets up and walks around with the knife sticking from it.
  • Marty calls Marshall "squirt" and his father calls him "zero."
  • Marshall drives home while his older brothers sleep, even though he's too young to drive legally.
  • Without having ever flown before, Marshall takes his father's rebuilt plane by himself and successfully flies and lands it. Some pre-driving age kids may get the same idea about taking the family car for a spin.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Everyone, including Mark, thinks that a log that hits him while he wades through a swamp is an alligator.
  • A rattlesnake jumps up and nearly strikes one of the boys.
  • A bear's paw suddenly grabs Marshall's leg.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There's a mild amount of suspenseful music in several scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 3 "s" words, 8 hells, 7 "ass" words (3 using "hole"), 5 craps, 3 damns, and 2 uses each of "My God," "Oh God," and "Oh my God," and 1 use of "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Mark comments on two attractive college girls and stares at their chests saying, "Gosh, they've really grown." When his girlfriend catches him on this, he then says, "Up."
  • The boys meet two girls dressed like hippies (it is the 1960's) at a beach. The boys ask, "Are you sure this is a nude beach?" One of the girls replies, "It is now," and runs off disrobing as she and her friend run for the surf. Marty and Mark follow them, disrobing as well, but no nudity is seen, although Marshall decides to film this event for future use.
  • SMOKING
  • We usually see the boys' father with a cigar in his mouth.
  • Some friends of the boys smoke cigarettes before a film screening.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • The boys' father doesn't want them out exploring and indirectly tries to squash their dreams. He and Agnes discuss this, but it never gets to the fighting stage.
  • Marty Sr. has a truck accident and winds up in the hospital, and the family must not only deal with that, but they must also work hard to keep the family business functioning.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The accuracy of this story in portraying what really happened.
  • Pursuing your dreams.
  • Trying to film (or nowadays videotape) wild and dangerous animals.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Another boy shoots a deer with a crossbow and Marty must put the animal out of its misery with a knife.
  • Mark's father slaps him on the back of his head at the dinner table.
  • Marty and Mark get into a brief fight that ends with them rolling down a hill and Mark breaking his leg.
  • Marshall daydreams while driving the truck and runs over several mail boxes.
  • A farmhand backhands someone who boos during a screening of the boy's film.



  • Reviewed June 28, 1997

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