Starring Steve Zahn, Ernest Borgnine, and Justin Long. Rated 18A.
Strange Wilderness is about chaos, not nature. This crude, stupid, and sometimes unreasonably funny spoof of outdoor-adventure shows is essentially the visual noise of Hollywood types trying to have fun while they try to make money.
It’s a measure of the imaginations at work here that director Fred Wolf (Joe Dirt) and cowriter Peter Gaulke have come up with lead characters called Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf—although these personalities (unlike those in Superbad) have little in common with their creators. Played by Steve Zahn, who really is an underused talent these days, Gaulke is the flailing-doofus host of our titular nature program, inherited from his trailblazing dad and now struggling to hold down the 3 a.m. slot on cable. And Wolf (Allen Covert) is, I dunno, the longhaired guy who hangs out with him?
When their station chief (Jeff Garlin) tells the boys to go large or get lost, they throw everything into a trip to South America in search of Bigfoot. As redemption schemes go, this one seems iffy, but their madcap plan is able to attract a camera guy (Justin Long) too stoned to carry noncombustible equipment, an animal wrangler (Kevin Heffernan) ignorant of critters, a soundman (Mr. Superbad himself, Jonah Hill) mostly adept at making up absurd guitar songs, and—most miraculously—a travel coordinator (Ashley Scott) who is the latest in a long line of supermodels who secretly yearn to share cramped RV space with sweaty, neurotic losers and their hearts of pure fool’s gold.
Along the way, there are variable cameos from the likes of Harry Hamlin, Joe Don Baker, and Terminator Robert Patrick. Most of all, it was an unalloyed pleasure to see Ernest Borgnine still working, as the cameraman’s amiable dad. The movie is full of similarly dumb delights—except every time the idiotic main story kicks in.