Director: Todd Rohal
Runtime: 85 minutes
Once upon a time there was an comedian named Chris Farley and a movie named Tommy Boy. Farley, coming from a hardworking middle class Midwestern family, often made films about hardworking families, a son trying not to disappoint his father. Cut to 2012 and Nature Calls, the story of two polar-opposite brothers. Randy (Patton Oswalt) is a boy scout to the core, even if at 40 he has no children of his own. Kirk (Johnny Knoxville) is wealthy as he owns his own business, an ATM/Gum Ball Machine that’ll charge you $5 to withdraw your own money, but at least it comes with a gum ball.
The opening scene has Randy sitting down with young Moses (Eric Ruffin), letting him know his father has passed away – truth be told he’s alive and well. As Randy prepares the troops for a big overnight adventure, he discovers they all can’t attend. Granted parents are to blame for wossifying children, as Oswald complains one his campers has to maintain a minimum of 2-cell phone coverage bars at all times.
The party thrown for Kirk’s and Janie’s (Maura Tierney) adopted son has the troops indoors, drinking milk shakes and watching a cable TV set-up that would be obscene even by Buffalo Wild Wing’s standards. That’s when Randy steps in, essentially kidnapping (or not) his troop back, and taking them into the woods for an adventure, all to save its legacy. On this unauthorized field trip they eventually are hunted by Knoxville, Patrice O’Neal and Rob Riggle.
Nature Calls is yet another SXSW 2012 movie about characters going into the woods and at this point it’s gone from snarky comment I make in line with someone to the actual truth. I will leave Austin having seen over 30 films, 12 of which take place in nature or the woods; I yearn for a good urban hipster comedy. Nature Calls, directed by SXSW 2011 alum Todd Rohal (who also made another film about an unlikely pair returning to nature, the funny Catechism Cataclysm) is less promising.
A very broad comedy with talented comedians, it borrows too much from what’s come before it, lacking nearly the laughs to sustain itself. Nature Calls in the context of a film festival isn’t great, however if some nudity and a little language are edited out, I have no doubt that as a PG-13-rated comedy it’ll satisfy the middle school crowd. Unfortunately I, and much of South By Southwest, are not in this target demographic and thus without the alcohol assistance available at the Alamo Drafthouse, Nature Calls falls flat.
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