Thursday, 23 April 2009

No. 107 : Without A Paddle : Nature’s Calling

Without a Paddle - Nature's Calling at the IMDb

It’s surprising how many crappy films earn a sequel but I was certainly taken aback that the lamentable original of this franchise managed to spawn a straight to video second helping. I saw the first ‘Paddle’ film on 19/01/2005 and immediately excised it from my memory. I remember it’s got Shaggy and Scott Evil in it and that the ending solved the DB Cooper mystery but apart from that I remember nothing.

I therefore went into ‘Nature’s Calling’ with a relatively open mind, or at least as open as it can be when it has the dreaded ‘DVD premiere’ tag affixed. Some brief research showed that none of the original stellar cast reprise their role and instead we get a cast of unknowns basically remaking the original.

The film opens in classic redemption film style with a flash back where we meet our two heroes at school when they are 14. Zach is the cool doofus type whereas Ben is the studious one who falls for a girl who soon gets expelled for campaigning for lab rats. After the titles we meet the pair in their twenties with Zach working at an old folks’ home and Ben as a corporate lawyer.

Hollywood then plays it’s unlikely hand with an elderly patient of Zach’s asking him to find her long lost grand daughter who also happens to be Ben’s unrequited love. The pair resolve to find the girl, a choice that especially suits Ben who has a pair of escaped criminals he failed to defend on his trail. As the guys ready to leave they are joined by Nigel, an annoying British step son of the dying pensioner who may have an agenda of his own.

The trio hire a raft in small town Oregon and there’s barely time for the clichéd locals to warn of the monster in the woods before they set off. As the trio set off downstream we are treated to endless ‘Deliverance’ style P.O.V. shots and no end of intrigue, I’ll be bound.

This is an awful film that deserves it’s ignominious release and poor ratings. It is clearly aimed at an adolescent market with endless planks in the balls gags allied with references to ‘wood’ and ‘shitake’ (thanks ‘Goldmember’). The quest for a teen certificate means that there is no nudity or swearing but plenty of CGI squirrel ball biting action.

The cast are uniformly dreadful with Ben the worst, a sort of Keanu Reeves without the charisma. I did have a soft spot for Nigel whom we were supposed to hate but seemed a decent guy amongst his twattish companions despite his tiring Kevin Kline impression.

The plot, as it was, was predictable throughout and every bit of skulduggery was telegraphed form several scenes earlier. There was an attempt at a wrong foot with respect to the love story but given that the characters were all interchangeable you’ll hardly notice. The big end revelation was only a surprise in retrospect as I thought that’s what the old woman meant in the first place.

The film is competently made and some of the raft scenes were well done. Darkest Oregon did look a bit like a nature garden in places however and the CGI squirrels and hummingbird were badly misjudged. I did like NFL legend Jerry Rice turning up as Al Gore’s mental and black brother but sadly his late breaking appearance failed to rescue the sinking raft.

Best Bit : Riding the rapids
'W' Rating 11/23

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