Strange Wilderness is the latest film from Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s production company. Because of this, it features the usual Sandler hangers-on, like Allen Covert and Peter Dante, i.e. those guys whose names you don’t recognize, yet they’re in every single Sandler flick this side of Punch-Drunk Love. However, there’s one guy who is inexplicably absent: the one and certainly only Rob Schneider. And while a Schneider-free movie is never a bad thing, his absence does indicate what kind of film this is: Strange Wilderness is so terrible that Rob Schneider was unwilling to be in it.
I honestly can’t blame him. Other than Kevin Heffernan’s (Beerfest) ability to keep his clothes on for the film’s running time, there isn’t one single redeeming quality in this entire movie, unless you really just despise those Mac commercials and want to watch Justin Long’s career slide slowly into the abyss. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly Strange Wilderness is supposed to be. Obviously, it’s first and foremost a stoner comedy, which basically means everyone sits around and does drugs and acts stupid, with the film working on the premise that the mere sight of a bong will induce fits of laughter. But on top of the drug use, the film employs the kind of “random” humor popularized by Anchorman (2004). Since there’s never a punch line—let alone a point—to any of the randomness, the humor never works. Of course, it might have helped if the jokes had been more than just the “LOL we’re high” variety combined with a handful of gross-out gags (like a fake turkey latched onto Steve Zahn’s manhood, or Robert Patrick—proving there are worse fates than being in The Marine (2006)—sporting a mangled scrotum). Of course, when you realize first-time director Fred Wolf also wrote Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003), three guys vomiting into the mouth of a shark starts to look pretty classy.
The film’s plot centers around Steve Zahn’s character, Peter, a pothead who inherited his father’s nature show after his death and promptly ran it into the ground. In an attempt to reinvigorate his ratings and save the show, Peter and his crew of stoners set off for Ecuador in search of Bigfoot. In this way, the movie’s a road-trip flick, with the team getting into all kinds of unfunny high jinks until the ultimate meet-up with Bigfoot. The film’s plot is also somewhat of a stoner variant on Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Substitute the jaguar shark for Bigfoot, Jeff Goldblum with L.A. Law’s Harry Hamlin and everything good about Anderson’s film for the utter atrociousness of this film and you’ve got two pretty similar movies.
Ultimately, this movie is for people who find Cheech and Chong too intellectual (I’m sure they exist). There’s nothing intentionally good about this film, since the filmmakers didn’t even make an effort when it came to the Bigfoot sighting, which is really the film’s highlight. There hasn’t been a costume this obviously bad (you can see the guy’s face through the mask’s eyeholes) to grace movie screens since Crash Corrigan’s gorilla suit. Heck, Strange Wilderness makes White Pongo (1945) look like The White Gorilla (1945). And there’s not many movies you can say that about. Rated R for nonstop language, drug use, crude and sexual humor.