ChrisHicks's Review of Wild America

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While growing up in Arkansas during the late '60s, Marshall was more than just the youngest brother of the Stouffer family, he was their reluctant daredevil stunt man. Brothers Mark and Marty would put him in harm's way for the sake of homemade 8mm movie-making, from belting him into a chair and dunking him in a pool of water to dragging him behind a car during a drag race. (They call them "character-building experiments.") But that's nothing compared to the trio's eventual adventures in the wilds of America, where Marshall finds himself riding on the antlers of a moose, nearly becoming alligator munchies and barely escaping a grizzly they've awakened from hibernation. So goes "Wild America," a tribute to wild youth and the supposedly true story of the Stouffers, who went on to award-winning careers in the business of nature films. (Remember Marty Stouffer's PBS documentary program "Wild America"?) The film is obviously fictionalized and exaggerated — kids, don't try any of this at home! But what a wild adventure — a family film with action, suspense and comedy, pulled together in a way that is far and away better than the typical kids picture. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who co-stars in Tim Allen's TV sitcom "Home Improvement," is the most familiar face, and he plays Marshall, who tells the story, set in 1967. Marshall is the prop, and his older brothers Mark (Devon Sawa) and Marty (Scott Bairstow) are the filmmakers. All are dreamers, however, despite their father Marty Sr. (Jamey Sheridan) being a down-to-earth, hardened realist. On the other hand, Mom (Frances Fisher) is more inclined to feed the boys' dreams, however reluctantly. When the older boys declare their independence, through a desire to purchase a used 16mm TV-news camera and go on the road to film animals that are faced with extinction, the parents naturally resist. Eventually, however, Dad agrees to let them go for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer. And, of course, Marshall hides in the car so he can go with them. What ensues are their encounters with nature — endangered and dangerous nature, rare animals in their natural habitat. And the results are equal parts thrilling and funny. The actors are all quite good, and Thomas has a natural screen charm that strengthens his role as a victim who matures during the course of these adventures. But this is clearly a director's movie, and aided by a screenplay from four writers (including Mark Stouffer), William Dear ("Harry and the Hendersons," "Angels in the Outfield") certainly makes his mark with this one. Parents may balk at a movie that has teenage boys traveling alone and encountering one wild-eyed danger after another, but teenage boys in the audience will eat it up. Taken as a fantasy adventure, this one delivers big time. (And stay for the real-life Stouffer documentary footage that highlights the end credits.) "Wild America" is rated PG for violence, some profanity and a few vulgar gags.
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Okfor ages12+