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Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling (2009)

Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/13/2009

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/8/2009

In the world of bad sequels, there are many different levels. There are the sequels that actually utilize the actors and filmmakers from the previous film. Then, we have movies which try to make the best of a bad situation and only have a tenuous link to the original, such as Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, which shares only one main cast member from the original. At the bottom of the barrel there is the detestable "sequel in name only", the movie which actually has nothing to do with the original, save for sharing a similar title. Few were asking for a sequel to Without a Paddle, and no one wanted Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling.

Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling introduces us to Zach (Kristopher Turner) and Ben (Oliver James), friends since high school. While in school, Ben developed a crush on Heather, a nature activist. But, she was expelled before he could tell her. Years later, Ben is very busy as a lawyer, and Zach is a nurse who works with senior citizens. Due to Ben's hectic schedule, they rarely see each other. One of Zach's patients, Mrs. Bessler (Ellen Albertini Dow), asks Zach to find her granddaughter so that she can see her before she dies. Upon seeing a photo of the girl, Zach realizes that it's Heather. He contacts Ben and they decide to venture into the Oregon wilderness to find her. Much to their chagrin, Mrs. Bessler insists that her grandson, Nigel (Rik Young), accompany them. Being undaunted by tales of a killer beast told by the townspeople, the three young men rent a raft and head down the river. However, they soon find themselves lost in the woods. Will they be able to find Heather, and more importantly, who is following them through the woods?

It's rare to find someone involved with a movie like this being honest, but on the featurette included on the DVD, one of the producers admits that they stretched to find a reason to make a sequel and decided that the nature girls in the treehouse would be a great link between the two movies. But, for some reason, the girls in Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling aren't the same ones who were in Without a Paddle....but they live in a treehouse which looks like the one from the first film. Confused yet? Let's review -- the powers that be were so desperate to make a sequel to a moderately successful movie that they chose two minor characters from the first film and decided to use them as an excuse for a sequel. They then concocted an entirely new story with a new set of characters to then go find a new set of characters based on an old set of characters. Got that?

And as you can imagine, the movie isn't very good. In fact, Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling is the epitome of a bland, by-the-numbers direct-to-DVD movie. Like so many of these movies, it isn't necessarily bad, but there's nothing appealing about it either. This movie gets a double-whammy, as it's the sequel to a fairly funny film, and one can't help but compare it to is predecessor. The jokes here are all very lame and predictable, but as a nice change of pace, most of the characters are likable, if not a bit bland. Without a Paddle had a bit of an edge to it at times, but, despite the PG-13 rating, things never ger very exciting here, and Zach says "Holy Shiitake!" all of the time. Speaking of characters, you will notice future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in the credits, and then you'll forget about that until he arrives on-screen and you simply hang your head in shame. In fact, the DVD box, gives a good idea of what the movie will be like with its tagline, "Three Guys. One Chance. No Plan." What does that even mean? Can I throw some random words up there and see what happens?

It's really hard to call Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling a disappointment, because I wasn't expecting much from it in the first place. However, I've been surprised by sequels before, so I gave it a shot. What I found was a very standard "made by committee" movie which had no originality, and seemingly wasn't striving for any. The plot follows the first film almost to the letter and there are no surprises in the movie...well, except for the whole Jerry Rice debacle. If anything, the movie is simply benign, and you shouldn't better with it. If you nature calling, don't answer. The real question here is when are they going to release Up the Creek on DVD?

Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling gets all white-watery on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly bright or dark. The picture is a bit soft at times, and the level of detail is notably less than the Blu-ray. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the in-film music reproduction is fine. The subwoofer effects add presence to the rapids. However, there's little surround sound here.

The Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling DVD contains a few extras: "Up the Creek: The Making of Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling" (11 minutes) is a fairly standard featurette which offers comments from the cast and filmmakers, and a limited amount of on-set footage. They discuss how the project came togehter (which is fairly lame) and there is then a look at the actors and characters. The location shooting on the river is also examined. "Furious Nuts" (7 minutes) is a fauxumentary which offers a look at the "actor in the squirrel suit" who played the squirrels in the film, and has comments from the actors who talk about the angry, live squirrels on the set. "Treehouse Tales" (3 minutes) shows us that there were two treehouses used for the film, one which was actually in a tree and the other which was on a set. The DVD contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 1 minute. These are all quite brief and are merely snippets from existing scenes. The final extra is a 5-minute GAG REEL.

Paramount Home Entertainment has also brought Without a Paddle: Nature's Calling to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is quite sharp and clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source material. The softness and lack of detail found on the DVD aren't present here, as the image has a nice crispness and good depth. The colors are excellent, most notably the green foliage. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an odd track, as the stereo effects are quite good, especially those which feature noises from the forest. There is also some solid bass, both from the white water and an action scenes at the end. However, the lack of surround sound is surprising. I watched the rafting scene a few times just to be sure, but the sound of the water coming from the rear speakers is so subtle that it's nearly non-existent.

The extras on the Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long