On paper, 'Nature Calls' sounds amazing and had the potential to make a lot of money at the box office. With an all-star comedy cast including Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Rob Riggle, the late Patrice O'Neal, and Darrell Hammond, you'd think this had comedy gold running through its veins. But this foul-mouthed coming-of-age comedy struggles with what kind of movie it wants to be, ultimately leaving the viewer confused and annoyed that it wasn't as funny as it could have been.
Director Todd Rohal, best known for his quirky film 'The Catechism Cataclysm' (try saying that 5 times), has made a mish-mash of different genres all rolled into one film. The main problem with the flick is that it seems to want to be a comedy, but also has a few action scenes, dramatic moments, and a bit of a silly family movie vibe, not all of which fit comfortably in one movie. The result is a storyline that doesn't make sense, with over-the-top characters, leaving all of the kid actors without a voice and individuality. This could have been a better film if Rohal kept it focused.
The film follows Randy (Patton Oswalt), who is the assistant leader of his father's Boy Scout troop. His father is in declining health these days and Randy is left in charge most of the time, The troop once had over 90 kids, but as we've seen in this day and age, kids would rather play video games, watch television, and go to the mall than connect with nature and go camping. Randy and his father decide to really get their troop back in top form and plan a camping trip for their scouts, however none of them want to go, and instead have an overnight sleepover at Randy's brother's house, who's name is Kirk (Johnny Knoxville). Kirk is a slimy businessman in the ATM business who is quite rude to everyone, even his children and wife Janine (Maura Tierney).
Randy will not take no for an answer and basically kidnaps the kids to go on their campout and teach them the Scouting way for a couple of nights. Kirk and his friend Gentry (Rob Riggle), along with one of the kid's parents, Mr. Caldwell (Patrice O'Neal), set off to find the boys and teach Randy a lesson. Now one would think, these people would just simply go out looking for them or make a few phone calls, but here it's grab your guns and weapons, and let's have ourselves an action film. Meanwhile Janine is trying to keep all of the other kid's parents in the dark from the situation to avoid a major meltdown.
Along the journey, we start to see Randy instilling the joys of being a Scout as the kids begin to take an active role in the activities and help one another. However, Kirk and his two idiotic friends are trying to find them and stop them at every turn. One of Kirk's plans to stop the camping trip for no reason backfires on him, literally, with an an actual camp fire. The film itself takes a couple of unorthodox turns here and there, which really never relate to the story or characters, thus leaving us with a messy flick.
Oswalt, Knoxville, and Riggle do a decent enough job with the script they're given, but none of it rings true, which is unfortunate because these actors have done some really great work. And Tierney just looks to be there for the paycheck and laughs off camera. The kids in the film have no real individual character to them. They might as well have been just one kid in the film, but I don't blame their performances, just the script. 'Nature Calls' could have been something great, but ultimately it falls flat.
'Nature Calls' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
The overall appearance of the film looks soft right from the get go. The detail is not as sharp as it could be, even with closeups. The colors however look pretty decent, with the greens of the wilderness shining brightly. The black levels are deep enough to get the job done. The flesh tones are natural and smooth. I did not notice any aliasing or edge enhancement either. At times, the film just seems to be out of focus just a bit. Lack of detail and sharpness with this picture keeps it from getting a higher rating.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix that sounds pretty good.
The dialogue is crystal clear and situated nicely on the center and fronts. The ambient noise and sound effects sound decent enough, but don't get used like they should. Those effects sound very soft and not as loud as the could be. Even the gun shots sound soft. The ambient sounds of nature do come through here and there, but not at one point do you feel like you are outside in the wilderness. This is a pretty straight forward audio mix with no real directional sounds as most of it comes out of the fronts.
All in all, I was hoping for a better audio presentation.
'Nature Calls' is an interesting film. It's part coming-of-age, part raunchy comedy, and part action film. This flick could have gone in many different directions, and I think ir ultimately suffered because it didn't know what it wanted it to be. However, the stellar comedy cast is great and it's fun to watch these different style comedians add their brand of humor to their roles. The audio and video are just okay, while the extras won't turn any heads. My advice is to rent this first.