Wild America

Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who just completed his sixth season on Home Improvement, has become a bona fide teen idol, but he’d better enjoy it while it lasts. Teen idols tend to fade as quickly as they sprout (Leif Garrett, we hardly knew ye!), and it’s easy to imagine Thomas, with his honey gold moptop and thick lips that curl into an angel’s smile, going in one of two directions — he looks like he’s about to turn into either Val Kilmer or John Denver. Thomas is being promoted as the headline star of Wild America, a true-life adventure set in 1967 and based on the exploits of the Stouffer brothers, who grew up in Fort Smith, Ark., got their hands on an Arriflex 16 mm camera, and took off on a cross-country odyssey to film wild animals in their natural environments. Since Thomas plays the youngest brother, he’s essentially a mascot, a chipmunk-cheeked cuddlebug who stands off to the sidelines. Wild America feels like something the Walt Disney company produced for junior-high-classroom consumption 30 years ago. By the time the three brothers awaken a caveful of hibernating grizzly bears, who instantly go back to sleep after being lullabied, you begin to wonder whether most of the acting isn’t being done by people in animal suits. In the incongruous climax, Thomas climbs into a propeller plane and flies it without a moment’s training. That’s a scene that would have shamed the young Val Kilmer (though not, perhaps, John Denver). C-

Wild America
  • Movie