MRR Movie Review: Nature Calls


Movie Review: "Nature Calls"

-- Rating: R
Length: 79 min
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2012
Directed by: Todd Rohal
Genre: Comedy

While the final product may not have appealed to all, there is no doubt that director Todd Rohal made "Nature Calls" with admirable intentions. The movie, by relying on raunchy humor, seeks to underline the importance of encouraging kids to enjoy the outdoors again. The movie highlights the perils of excessively cautious parenting by relying on satirical spoofs on modern day parenting.

Randy Stevens (Patton Oswalt) is an Assistant Scoutmaster who is struggling to live up to his father's legacy. While he shares his father's passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors and scouting, Randy struggles to pass on the spirit to the next generation. Rohal has kept things simple by portraying Randy as the well-intentioned loser.

Randy's brother, Kirk (Johnny Knoxville), is a rich, powerful, successful, and obnoxious person who has an extremely poor opinion of Scouting and its associated benefits. Anybody who has grown up in the 70s and 80s will quickly identify the subtle tribute that director Rohal has given to similar movies from the past.

The conflict between Randy and Kirk is exposed when the latter invites Randy's scouts to a slumber party. Already disheartened at being compelled to organize the scouting camp in a parking lot, Randy is horrified to find that kids would rather spend all their time playing video games at the slumber party, thrown to welcome Kirk's adopted African son Dwande (Thiecoura Cissoko). Again, Rohal seems to have purposefully adopted such crude devices to contrast the attitude of modern-day parents.

Rohal highlights the disturbing consequences of excessive mollycoddling by showing the parents insist on the scouting camp being set up in a parking lot. Also, the kids do not play boisterously at the slumber party but instead are encouraged to sit and play video games. Irrespective of the on-screen implementation, the director deserves full marks for highlighting these concerns in modern society.

Randy is shaken into action, and he successfully convinces the kids to join him on a real scouting expedition to a camp in the restricted area of a State Park that can only be accessed by a long hike. This is where the movie's comic gags come to the fore, as watching spoilt brats hiking for the first time is predictably funny. Randy's attempt to toughen them up in a single night also leads to humorous consequences. Learning about Randy's decision to take all the kids without bothering about permission slips, Kirk decides to rescue them and is accompanied by guard Gentry (Rob Riggle) and a fellow angry father, Caldwell (Patrice O'Neal).

Riggle and Patrice perform some of the funniest gags in the movie. Patrice's performance clearly shows what a tragic loss his death will be for the film industry as a whole.

This is where the movie, which starts as a relatively clean entertainer, turns into a movie with numerous raunchy comic gags aimed solely at adults. The shift from clean to raunchy comedy is not smooth, and this probably counts as the biggest flaw in the movie. However, similar movies made in the 70s and 80s were hardly known for their high production values. It does not take long for the audience to adjust to the change in the nature of the humor.

In the second half, the director relies on slapstick and situation-based humor as the gags grow raunchier. Kirk's search ends and he lands up at the camp after numerous hilarious interludes to find the kids having proper outdoor fun for the first time in their lives. Of course, this turnaround does not come before adults and kids have been obnoxiously mean to each other.

While there are no surprises in the end, the director does introduce a twist in the second half, which only serves to accentuate the whacky premise of the movie. However, it must be said that the second half could have been slightly more plausible. The manner in which the cast shrugs off a character's death, although slightly funny, is difficult to believe. The movie also, rather unexpectedly, shows the kids poking fun at a religious symbol, which only accentuates the feeling that the movie is not made for the purpose of gathering critical acclaim. Rather, director has tried to model the movie on other cult classic movies based on the same premise.

The movie is not devoid of its share of weak characterization, tacky execution, and obnoxious gags. However, it certainly offers an excellent chance to laugh at yourself at the fact that you loved similar movies made in the 70s and 80s when you were a kid.

Rated: 2 out of 5 stars