October 04, 2006
Open Season: My 90 Minutes in Cinema Purgatory
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
In 1973, I was in Beverly Hills with an afternoon to kill, so I went to see Billy Jack, starring a non-actor named Tom Laughlin. It was so surpassingly awful that I decided to see if I could sit through the whole thing just as a test of willpower. I made it, and until yesterday it had been the worst film I'd ever seen.
Until yesterday, because yesterday the operators of this blog forced me to go and watch Open Season. This is an animated (in the sense that it uses cartoon figures; there is nothing else animated about it) Sony Pictures movie in which a tame grizzly bear goes back to the wild, makes lots of new animal friends, and routs a mob of hunters. Because it is anti-hunting, some people have their bowels in an uproar over the thing. They needn’t worry.
I went to see it just after noon on a weekday so that I would not have to sit in a theater full of kids. I had never been in a multiplex before, and in theater 14 (out of 15), I found myself in the company of a meth freak, an out of work phrenologist, and two muggers who were killing time until dark. There was also a young dad and his daughter, whom I would guess to be about 6.
Now this is a kids’ movie, so I am hardly the one to decide whether it’s funny or not, so I listened to the little girl. If she laughed, I would assume that something was funny. She laughed once in the course of the entire movie. Otherwise the theater was quiet as a tomb. All you could hear, aside from the din on the screen, was the rustling of sleeves as people looked at their watches every five minutes.
It’s simply amazing what you can do with lack of talent. This thing was devoid of wit, charm, originality, and emotional content of any kind. Inevitably, you have to compare Open Season with Bambi, which was a true work of genius, whatever you may think of it, done by the Disney Studios at its creative peak. It moved people, and still does.
Open Season moved me—into the men’s room, where I nearly lost my lunch when I thought about the $10.50 I had spent to see it.