Alpha and Omega


Review in a Hurry: In this mildly entertaining animated flick, two teenage wolves try to return home after being relocated by park rangers. Young viewers might be distracted enough by the log-sledding critters to overlook the movie's lack of wit, but for most, there's nothing here to howl about.

The Bigger Picture: If a rom-com is gonna pair that ol' opposites-attract formula with a well-worn road-trip story, there had better be magic in its telling. Sadly, Alpha and Omega never rises above the mediocre and expected, despite the efforts of a decent voice cast.

Kate (Hayden Panettiere) is one of the Alpha wolves, all about duty and discipline, while longtime friend Humphrey (Justin Long) is an Omega—from the wrong side of the pack, more carefree and fun-loving. (Think Lady and the Tramp but without the charm.) These two aren't supposed to hang out, much less get frisky, so of course they want to! However, Kate is betrothed to another in order to help unite feuding factions in the forest.

After a sluggish start, the plot is back on the scent once Kate and Humphrey are trapped by Canadian rangers and transported to Idaho. Their journey back home involves hopping trains and trucks, escaping bears and lots of fighting/flirting, natch. Plus, since every animal movie must now include singing and dancing (blame Happy Feet!), they howl in pop-ballad style and, yes, even get their groove on.

A comparison to Pixar pics is unavoidable, and the quality is as disparate as, well, alpha and omega. The story needed Pixar-esque freshness and invention—and smarter humor, as much of the repartee lands with a thud. Because Kate and Humphrey don't establish a deeper relationship with each other, or with the audience, the inevitable "I love you" and attempt at pathos don't have the intended emotional impact.

A few action sequences generate excitement, notably the bear chase, but overall the animation lacks eye-popping pizzazz and polish, though the 3-D might make you duck occasionally.

The 180—a Second Opinion: A French-Canadian golfing goose named Marcel and his British duck caddy, Paddy, provide several welcome chuckles. Marcel and Paddy would have been a much better film.

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