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Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling(2008)
What do you get when you mix a lawyer, a slacker and a British Guy with the great outdoors? The wettest, wildest, and most outrageous road trip since Lewis & Clark! As a last wish for a little old lady, Ben the lawyer, his best friend Zach, and a wacky Brit, Nigel, team up to find her missing granddaughter. But there's one little problem... She's somewhere deep in the wilderness getting in touch with nature. See what happens when three guys without a plan, without a chance and without a clue fall out of the pan and into the fire! Let the adventure begin!
For more about Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling and the Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray release, see Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 15, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.0 out of 5.
Starring: Oliver James, Kristopher Turner, Rik Young, Amber McDonald, Madison Riley
Director: Ellory Elkayem
» See full cast & crew
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray Review
Can an NFL Hall-of-Famer save a bargain bin movie?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 15, 2009
Rats have rights too!
As Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling begins, a high school student named Heather is seen roaming the halls, asking anyone and everyone to sign her petition that supports the right of rats not to be dissected. Given the choice between dissection and a screening of Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling, the rat just might choose the former. This direct-to-video offering is a comedy without the laughs, playing as more of a tedious chore than even lighthearted entertainment. The movie is mostly inoffensive to the sensibilities but also completely forgettable. The inane shenanigans are stale, the characters bland, the story forced, and the pacing unforgiving. Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling is one of those movies that might have played better in the imagination; one can imagine a perusal of the script might have garnered a few laughs here and there, but the material just doesn't translate all that well to the screen. As noted earlier, there is nothing inherently bad about the movie, considering it is merely a low-budget, direct-to-video comedy -- it just never clicks or gets into a rhythm.
Ben (Oliver James) and Zach (Kristopher Turner) are longtime friends who don't seem to have much time for one another. Ben slaves away day and night as an attorney, while Zach lives a more carefree life as a nurse at a retirement home. When one of Zach's patients asks him to find her long-lost granddaughter, Heather (Madison Riley), Zach agrees to help. It turns out she is the same Heather that Ben longed for in high school. The two set out on a journey to find her, accompanied by her British brother-in-law Nigel (Rik Young). She was last seen in a small Oregon town, and legend has it that she (known around town as "Earthchild") and her friend "Thunderstorm" (Amber McDonald) disappeared into a wooded area, never returned, and are presumed dead. The trio bumble their way through the brush, watched from afar by a mysterious individual, and tracked by a pair out to locate the girls before Zach and Ben find them.
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling is a most boring movie from the get-go. Even as the plot develops, as the adventure begins, nothing manages to grab the audience and keep them even mildly amused, let alone enthralled. Clearly the latter is asking far too much of a movie such as this, but the former is clearly the film's goal, and in that regard, it fails to achieve its end. The rafting adventure scenes, the male bonding moments, and the sensual overtones of the film's third act all fall flat, lacking charm and barely finding a semblance of humor. To the film's credit, it does try to be decent, and offers a few good ideas. For example, while the film's two primary "bad guys" might very well fall into the "bumbling comedy antagonist" category, they do hold their own, and bring to the game a rather fine selection of firearms, and the know-how to use them, if not all that accurately. The plot is sufficient to move the picture along, with a decent twist to it, though by the time the twist comes along, most audiences will be in a holding pattern of sorts, not really involved in the story but just maybe willing to stay with it through to the end.
Perhaps the two most memorable sequences in the film involve a wide receiver and an army of squirrels. Former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice makes a cameo appearance in the film as a long-bearded mountain man who has spent his years studying global warming. Rice is the best actor in the film, though his part feels mostly forced into the script. Still, it's a nice treat for football fans, but hardly a reason to watch the movie. And what would a nature comedy be without small woodland creatures terrorizing the city folk? An extended, and mostly dull, sequence featuring badly-rendered CGI squirrels is one of those scenes alluded to above that probably played better on paper than on film. All in all, Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling isn't all that bad of a watch, but the material is better suited as something that is tuned in for a minute here and there, maybe something that momentarily catches viewer interest during a commercial break from the latest episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, should it ever play on television.
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray, Video Quality
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling ventures onto Blu-ray with a generally nice looking 1080p transfer, framed inside a 1.78:1 window. The image is clear and clean, with a colorful, natural palette. Grain can be seen here and there, though it is never intrusive and barely noticeable over the mostly bright, pleasing outdoor imagery. Detail is solid, though not always exceptional. There are many varied locations to be seen outside of the film's primary natural setting, particularly early on, including several locales in and around a high school and a small Oregon town, and each shares their own unique features with a better-than-expected amount of detail. Background images even remain fairly clear; in the small town as seen in chapter four, for example, signs in windows in the background can clearly be read. Detail in the woods, too, is nice; moss on trees, leaves, and various plants all appear fairly realistic. Flesh tones are never problematic, but black backgrounds often appear as a dark shade of gray. All in all, though, Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling looks good on Blu-ray, and this video presentation is the highlight of the disc.
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling floats onto Blu-ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack that is as forgettable as the movie it accompanies. Front heavy and bland, the track is suitable for a goofy comedy, but not much more. The music emanates nicely across the front with a mostly warm, natural presence, with a bit of support from the subwoofer. Environmental ambience is handled by the front speakers; many of the scenes on the river feature a nice presence across the front, as the water seems to flow around, but the rear speakers are used sparingly, if at all, leaving the experience one-sided and not at all immersive. A few gunshots heard near the end of the movie, along with several crashes and thuds, sound good enough, but again, lacking that sense of real-time immersion thanks to a completely front-heavy presentation. Dialogue is presented with no problems. Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling sounds about as one might expect of a direct-to-video comedy.
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling sinks on Blu-ray with minimal supplements. Up the Creek: The Making of 'Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling' (1080i, 10:30) is a very basic piece featuring cast and crew recounting the plot and sharing their thoughts on what makes the film work. The piece also looks at how the film connects with the first film in the Without a Paddle series and how this entry expands into its own film. Furious Nuts (1080i, 7:00) is a comical look at the "original" concepts for the squirrels seen in the film. Treehouse Tales (1080i, 3:18) more closely examines the tree house sets used in the film. Concluding the disc-based supplements is a gag reel (480p, 5:28) and four deleted scenes (480p, 1:16). Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling also includes a digital copy of the film which must be downloaded from a website provided on an enclosed flyer, though it states up front that it is neither Mac nor iPod compatible.
Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hollywood has produced far, far worse than Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling, but this film might just make a short list of "most forgettable films," even if only considering it among its fellow direct-to-video brethren. The film is horribly paced, dragging mostly due to the unfunny situations, lame dialogue, forgettable characters, and stale direction. Paramount's Blu-ray release of this direct-to-video snoozer is sufficient, with an above average video presentation, an average soundtrack, and a below average helping of bonus materials. Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling is best suited as a space-filler on the DVR whenever it may be on television, but it doesn't make the cut as a recommended addition to a Blu-ray collection.
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Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Without a Paddle Gets Detailed - November 6, 2008
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of the direct-to-video sequel 'Without A Paddle: Nature's Calling', which is due to hit store shelves on January 13th, day-and-date with the DVD ...
• Paramount Bringing Without A Paddle Sequel to Blu-ray - October 8, 2008
In an early announcement to retailers, Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the direct-to-video sequel 'Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling' to Blu-ray on January 13th, day-and-date with the DVD release. As this is not an official announcement, ...
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