A teen decides to brave the odds to grant his grandfather’s final wish in this great family film featuring Jon Voight and Jamie Kennedy.
Shaun is a 13-year old who is saddened when his grandfather Gus has died. Gus was considered Sean’s best friend due to his parents’ separation, which has since gotten very bad. However, Shaun is the only one able to see the ghost of Gus. When Shaun comes up with the idea of going to what Gus called “Mount Delilah”, Shaun’s mother Rachel and father Kristopher decide not to take him. That night, Shaun comes up with a plan to take Gus’ ashes and play his parents against each other so he can make the journey himself.
Shaun finds himself, aided by Gus, on the journey to “Mount Delilah” with Gus’ dog Riley. As Shaun begins to enjoy the long journey to reach the top of the mountain, he slowly begins to find himself facing numerous challenges. They include a bear coming up to the tent, two crazy hunters in the area, and the ill-health of Riley. When Kristopher and Rachel learn of Shaun’s ruse, the estranged couple decide to work together to find their son. Will Shaun be able to face the challenges that come ahead of him to grant his grandfather’s final wish?
This family adventure film is quite a surprising film that brings together a variety of genres. They include the teen in the wilderness film, the ghost film, and the family drama film, all brought together in a nicely paced 87-minute film. The story of a teen determined to grant his late grandfather’s final wish with the help of said grandfather’s ghost may sound a bit farfetched upon hearing it. However, seeing the film takes on a more positive meaning, especially with this film, thanks in part to Patrick Alessandrin’s direction, the beautiful cinematography by R. Michael Givens (which includes some nice aerial sites of the forests and mountains), and the true driving force of the film, the cast.
Jon Voight is great as late grandfather Gus, who not only serves as the ghost of our hero Shaun, but brings some hilarious comic relief to the film with some funny one-liners when it deems fit. He truly brings that grandfatherly-best friend nature to the role and his chemistry with newcomer Aidan Cullen couldn’t be better. As for Cullen himself, he has this natural talent as a rising star in his role of Shaun, who must overcome the odds in both the wilderness as well as his life to become his own person. Shaun a kid who loves his technology, but also appreciates the world outside of that technology, by enjoying the confines of being in the forests, caves, and the rivers, all to grant his grandfather’s final wish to scatter his ashes on top of the mountain.
Another surprising performance comes from Jamie Kennedy as Shaun’s father Chris. The one time comic fodder of the early 2000’s with films like Malibu’s Most Wanted, Kickin’ It Old School and the very horrific Son of the Mask, Kennedy truly has matured into a serious actor and brings that to the role of the embittered Kristopher, who is seen as a workaholic whose only connection with his son is technology. Vail Bloom seems like she has a constant chip on her shoulder as embittered mother Rachel, who is constantly at odds not just with Kristopher, but before that with Gus as well. The worse is that Rachel seems to vent out her issues to Shaun, refusing to pretty much let him do anything. While it may seem like Kristopher and Rachel may not be Parents of the Year, it is when they work together to find Shaun that redemption for these two in terms of their relationships with both Shaun and each other may seem imminent.
Surviving the Wild is a pretty good family film that truly takes the negatives of life and turns in truly into a positive. The story of overcoming the odds in life is truly one adventure for the family.
WFG RATING: A-
A SP Releasing Production. Director: Patrick Alessandrin. Producers: Steven Paul, Patrick Alessandrin, Mark Hefti, Vail Bloom, and Kyle Otto. Writer: Mark Hefti; story by Steven Paul. Cinematography: R. Michael Givens. Editing: Robert A. Ferretti.
Cast: Jon Voight, Jamie Kennedy, Vail Bloom, Aidan Cullen.
SP Releasing releases this film in select theaters today.