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Nature Calls

2012 | 79 min | R | 2.39:1

Nature Calls


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Theatrical release date

 09 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from Nature Calls Blu-ray

Nature Calls Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 8, 2012

“Nature Calls” hopes to make its audience intentionally uncomfortable, but it’s the unintentional uneasiness concerning certain elements of the picture that immediately jump into view. Released during a time when accusations of pedophilia share headlines with the Boy Scouts brand name certainly doesn’t improve the feature’s comedic aspirations, while the late Patrice O’ Neal takes on an eerie supporting role, playing a frustrated father out to prove to his son that he’s not dead. Granted, filmmaker Todd Rohal can’t be blamed for the movie’s unfortunate timing, but he’s perfectly culpable for a crummy screenplay and tuneless direction.

Randy (Patton Oswalt) is looking to keep his dream of Boy Scout leadership alive during an age of overstimulated, electronically distracted pre-adolescence, hoping to impress his elderly, TroopMaster father. Kirk (Johnny Knoxville) is Randy’s brother, a man who wants nothing to do with the Scouts after a childhood of camping adventures and merit badges. Watching as his dream for a peaceful troop camping trip is thwarted by Kirk’s scheming ways, Randy decides to risk everything and rope the kids into duty, including Kirk’s adopted African son, Dwande (Thiecoura Cissoko). Motoring out to the middle of a state park to “rough it” without a plan, Randy encounters a series of backfires alongside fellow leaders Eddie (Eddie Rouse) and Drew (Robert Longstreet), trying desperately to teach the kids a few lessons on self-reliance. Teaming up with brother-in-law Gentry (Rob Riggle) and concerned parent Caldwell (Patrice O’Neal), Kirk chases Randy into the woods to shame his brother and reclaim Dwande. When disaster strikes, the brothers are forced to rely on each other to survive, while the mute African boy takes to scouting like a champ, saving the troop from certain doom.

Although it runs only 75 minutes, “Nature Calls” is surprisingly messy when it comes to storytelling cohesiveness. Simplistic in design, yet random with punchlines and sight gags, the movie is an amusing idea wasted on half-baked ideas, abysmal casting, and a lack of decent jokes, with the script turning to the visual of a naked woman riding on a motorcycle to acquire its one and only laugh. The world of scouting isn’t something routinely attacked on the big screen, leaving Rohal an opening to make a feature with a unique perspective on the oversaturation of modern childhood and the idealistic adults who hope to preserve storied practices of bonding and education in a manner that reflects their own maturation.

Of course, good taste is in limited supply during “Nature Calls,” which boasts a heavily calculated tone of irreverence, treating the scouts like a dollar store version of “The Bad News Bears,” with cursing and rude behaviors more compelling to the boys than any extended stay in the woods. The script is interested in urination jokes, not tickling scout pastimes, with the R-rated antics dispiritingly executed in a chaotic manner that often drowns out individual personas, with Dwande the only boy the audience gets a chance to understand. Rohal doesn’t make an effort to flesh out the scouts beyond their constant complaining, while the adult characters also face a shortage of identity, painted broadly to encourage slapstick encounters, though a little attention to the particulars of Randy’s scouting drive and Kirk’s refusal to play along would’ve elevated the experience considerably, making the picture less shticky and more compelling as a tale of dying traditions.

Oswalt holds the picture together with his earnest performance, sustaining scout enthusiasm while depicting the darkening hobbyist cloud developing over Randy. It’s enjoyable work from a genuinely funny man, helping “Nature Calls” achieve some momentum early on in the proceedings. Less effective is Knoxville, miscast in a fatherly role. Although the “Jackass” star makes a game attempt to mute his inherent mischief, Kirk’s entire arc comes off insincere, and when the going really gets tough for the guy, suffering through an explosion and a crucifixion (for medical transport reasons), the acting doesn’t match the madness on display, finding Knoxville’s dull deilvery a cruel letdown. Riggle is airhorn-obnoxious as Kirk’s second-in-command, once again playing the only comedic speed he’s capable of: deafening. I’ve never seen him do anything else.

“Nature Calls” doesn’t amount to very much, laboring through a slim script of unremarkable developments, missing an opportunity to build a farce around camping and competitive adventures. I’d write that it’s the worst thing to happen to the Boy Scouts in quite some time, but the organization appears to have bigger fish to fry these days.

Starring: Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Rob Riggle
Director: Todd Rohal

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