OPEN SEASON (Roger Allers, Jill Culton, Anthony Stacchi). 87 minutes. Opens Friday (September 29). For venues and times, see Movies, page 108. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
A big lug of a main character, a small, hyperactive four-legged sidekick, a red-headed heroine - sound familiar? No, Shrek 3 isn't out six months early; we've just got a copycat in Open Season .
Martin Lawrence voices Boog, a domesticated grizzly bear whose owner, Beth ( Debra Messing ), rescued him as a cub and is having problems letting go. After a hyperactive deer named Elliot ( Ashton Kutcher ) ruins the show she and Boog put on together, Beth takes the bear "above the falls," where he'll be out of range of gun-toting hunters. There he meets an array of animals, from Patrick Warburton 's preening stag to Billy Connolly 's battle-ready squirrel (the funniest part of the movie).
Boog's attempts to re-adapt -- such as his inability to "go" in the woods -- are quite amusing. The film is full of good lessons about animals belonging in the wild and the evils of sport hunting (personified by Gary Sinise as a loathsome hunter), and it even tries to show that grizzlies are dangerous, although Boog doesn't actually kill anyone. But Open Season not only copies Shrek; it's also another in a line of animated animal movies that seem to come out every three months.
In Hollywood, imitation is the sincerest form of greed.