Rated PG for rude humor and some mild action, 88 minutes
Second-rate animated "Alpha and Omega" good for the kids
I have a bad habit of comparing all animated films to those done by the Disney/Pixar label, but it seems that most animated films strive for the same quality of those films, given how successful they've been. The new Lionsgate animated feature "Alpha and Omega" isn't terrible, but the characterization and the second-rate animation is strictly hit-or-miss and on the level of a straight-to-DVD movie. The only memorable thing about "Alpha and Omega" is that it contains one of the final performances of veteran actor Dennis Hopper.
Kate (Hayden Panettiere of "Heroes") is a dominant and driven female wolf, while hairy Humphrey (Justin Long, "Going the Distance") lives for the moment. They're on the opposite end of the social order of the wolf pace, with Kate the Alpha and Humphrey relegated to being Omega. But when the two young wolves are captured by park rangers and taken far away, their families, voiced by Danny Glover and Dennis Hopper, must work together to overcome their differences.
The kids will enjoy "Alpha and Omega," but a weak, uneven story, too many characters and the unoriginal animation make it a forgettable entry in this genre. There are a few lively moments and some bright colors along the way, but most of it you've seen done better many times before. And for the record, the 3D doesn't help it a single bit.
It's baffling that $87 million was budgeted for "Alpha and Omega," given the simplistic animation, lack of detail and the cardboard characters. Panettiere is woefully bland, Long is a little better, but both are upstaged by supporting characters. Comic actors Larry Miller (most recently seen in TV's v "10 Things I Hate About You") and Eric Price ("MADtv") have the best lines as a couple of birds, while Christina Ricci (yes, that Christina Ricci) gives a brief, wistful turn as one of the wolves.
The mid-section sags considerably and when the two lovebirds finally make it back it home to a supremely calculated finale, the audience may already lost interest in it. The film's attempts to provide some grand, Disney-esque like moments fail to generate any interest: there is not one, but two caribou stampedes, ala "Lion King." However, one bittersweet aspect of watching "Alpha and Omega" is that it's one of the final performances of Hopper, and the film is dedicated to his memory. It's unfortunate that a bland film called "Alpha and Omega" couldn't have been a better tribute to such an original actor.