"Safely Shooting Animals"
What You Need To Know:
A straight-up boys adventure film, WILD AMERICA depicts strong family values and exciting action sequences with almost no immorality. Tightly directed, the action is engrossing and believable. It is the kind of film which ought to be viewed by American audiences, who are starved for this kind of good, clean, Hardy Boys-type adventure, which champions the values of hard work, telling the truth, and self reliance.
(B, LL, N, D) Moral worldview of father wrestling with whether or not to let his three sons pursue their dream to photograph wild animals; 21 obscenities & 3 exclamatory profanities; no sex; one brief image of upper female nudity & many shots of upper male nudity; and, smoking by father.
Amidst Hollywood’s obsession in 1997 with presidential crime dramas and volcanoes, comes the refreshingly vibrant WILD AMERICA, a true story of the three Stouffer brothers who leave home in 1967 to spend the summer photographing wild animals in the American west. “The whole time I’m dipping carbs, I’m thinking about shooting pictures of wild animals,” says Marty to his younger brother, Marshall, narrator of WILD AMERICA. Marty stands in workmen’s overalls next to a basin of solvent, where he cleans car parts in his father’s backyard garage. His desire sets up a confrontation with his strict, but loving father, who has worked hard to bequeath his one-man carburetor parts company to his three sons. His father also mistrusts the financial prospects of their dream of photographing wild animals.
In the first scene of WILD AMERICA, Marty and Mark, two rambunctious teenage brothers, do daring stunts as they test their mettle in backyard ponds, and in mud races, all the while shooting endless pictures with Marty’s cheap still camera. Mark reads scary wild animal story books to his brothers at night and dwells on a tale about a mythical bear cave in the far west.
Soon, Marty discovers a fascination with the newest movie camera in a camera store. After his mother intercedes, his father relents and tells Marty that he will lend him the money to buy the camera. Nevertheless, Father is adamant to not let his son leave the parts shop to take pictures of wild animals. “I worked hard to give my boys this carburetor business, and not a truckload of false hopes,” says he. After much persuasion, he finally relents, but tells the boys they have to be back by the end of the summer. Their adventures start as their mother bids them a loving farewell in an old parts truck, with Marshall stowed away in the back.
Discounting their future audience’s interest in fish pictures, they decide to photograph large land animals. First, they risk their lives angling for a shot of a mean alligator. Next, they head far out west, where Marty shoots footage of Marshall, caught on the antlers of a moose, which is swimming above the swirling waters of a raging Rocky Mountain stream. An eccentric mountain denizen rescues Marshall and tells them where to find a woman who might know about the mythical bear cave. They follow the woman’s horse’s tracks to the cave, where they encounter dozens of bears lying on rocks in hibernation. Their portable light wakes up the bears, who growl menacingly, allowing Marty to get great images. Marshall sounds his dying rabbit call and distracts the attacking bears long enough to let Marty and Mark escape. Then, Marshall climbs out through a hole in the cave roof, carrying the precious camera, and film.
They return in triumph to Mom and Dad, but are humiliated as their truck is damaged by Marshall’s boyish driving. They discover their father has had a serious truck accident. In his hospital room, Marshall urges his father to release his older brothers to pursue their dreams, pointedly asking him when he would let them be what they have to be and do what they have to do. The film concludes with an emotionally satisfying climax at the Fort Smith, Arkansas, High School auditorium, which their supportive mother has rented for an evening showing of the brother’s wild animal adventure film.
Ultimately, the filmmakers must have appreciated the fact that this is a movie about filmmakers. The boys play their daredevil parts well, and the father portrays a strong, silent type with convincing aplomb. Frances Fisher gives a good performance as a supportive, loving mother who submits to the sometimes stubborn dictates of her husband. Overall, the film is well structured, with clearly delineated conflict, climax and resolution, and it is very entertaining.
A straight-up boys adventure film, WILD AMERICA depicts strong family values and exciting action sequences with almost no immorality. Tightly directed, the action is engrossing and believable. It is the kind of movie which ought to be viewed by American audiences, who are starved for this kind of good, clean, Hardy Boys-type adventure, which champions the values of hard work, telling the truth and self reliance. Although the characters lack consciousness of God, WILD AMERICA is an entertaining, red-blooded adventure film well worth the trip to the theater.