Title: Nature Calls

Director: Todd Rohal (‘The Catechism Cataclysm‘)

Starring: Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Maura Tierney, Rob Riggle, Patrice O’Neal, Darrell Hammond and Thiecoura Cissoko

Brothers often grow up fighting with each other, but when their rivalry continues well into adulthood, they often have trouble accepting the other’s seemingly foolish beliefs and antics. Such is the case with the two main characters in the upcoming comedy ‘Nature Calls,’ which will be released in select theaters on Friday. The brothers in the film are both losing things they believe in, and are experiencing crises of faith, but are still reluctant to accept that they’re old enough to at least acknowledge the other’s choices.

‘Nature Calls’ follows Assistant Scoutmaster Randy Stevens (Patton Oswalt), who is determined to honor his father’s scouting legacy and try to make one last comeback for his dwindling troop. Randy visits his his business-minded brother Kirk (Johnny Knoxville), who is throwing a television-themed slumber party with his wife, Janine (Maura Tierney), for their newly adopted 10-year-old son, Dwande (Thiecoura Cissoko), at their mansion. Randy pressures the boys to secretly leave the party and join him on a weekend scout camping trip. When Kirk discovers the boys are missing, he takes his security guard, Gentry (Rob Riggle), to look for them in the woods. The boys are met with trouble from their angry parents and the park rangers, including Ranger Deakins (Darrell Hammond), but the experience ultimately turns them into a troop to be reckoned with.

Writer-director Todd Rohal successfully created a comedy filled with hilarious mayhem that features subtle emotional lessons throughout the course of the plot. Randy means no harm when he takes the boys on the camping trip, ash e just wants them to break free from the influences of their ultra-modern parents and experience a true adolescent experience. The provocative, tongue-in-check film shows Randy coping with his crisis of faith, and despair over the dwindling number of scouts in his troop. He feels that he has to take the boys to show them that they can make their own decisions, and have fun without technology.

‘Nature Calls’ aimed to combine the comedic visual approach Rohal took from his earlier films, including last year’s comedy ‘The Catechism Cataclysm,’ with a more commercial style of storytelling and mainstream actors. While the movie does include witty, comedic moments and a thought-provoking theme, the story unfortunately lacks any true emotional connection between the characters. The filmmaker seemed more focused on getting laughs from the occasionally immature adult characters, especially Randy and Kirk, than offering any true insight into their lives. Randy and Kirk are more interested in impressing Dwande and his friends than truly explaining their rivalry or motivations. The movie forgoes any true character development to instead feature consecutive set-ups for the next gag, notably a scene where Randy makes it appear as though his father was killed in the woods while the boys were hiking. Dwande and his friends panic and don’t know what to do, defeating Randy’s well-intentioned but misplaced idea to force the boys to think and act on their own.

Despite the well-meaning, but at times misplaced and undeveloped, comedic motivations and aspects of the characters in ‘Nature Calls,’ Rohal assembled a truly entertaining cast. Oswalt was the perfect choice to portray Randy, as he convincingly showed the character still believes in a more innocent world that’s quickly disappearing. Randy is shown to be a lost soul, who is motivated to bring virtue back to the children’s lives, but doesn’t understand why people become upset with his unorthodox methods to revive his troop again.

Knoxville had the right comedic instincts to play the money and technology-obsessed Kirk, who thinks he’s doing enough to provide for Dwande. Kirk honestly believes working all the time and making money will make his son happy, and doesn’t realize he’s not fully paying attention to him until he sees him with Randy. While Knoxville doesn’t have as many scenes as Oswalt in the film, he still infuses Kirk with a relatable sense of protection over Dwande, and will put himself into any situation necessary to get him home safely.

Cissoko was a perfect choice to play Dwande in ‘Nature Calls,’ who made his feature film acting debut in the comedy. While Dwande doesn’t have a lot of lines in the film, Cissoko still gave a genuine performance that showed the character is still struggling to assimilate into American society with Kirk and Janine. The young actor used distinctive facial expressions to show that Dwande wanted attention from his new parents, but he felt more comfortable in nature with Randy.

Rohal included numerous comical jokes for many of the characters throughout the course of ‘Nature Calls,’ but unfortunately failed to include any true emotional connection or backstory between them. The lack of a truly developed plot was atoned for by the well-cast actors. The actors all gave an intriguing and amusing look into the filmmaker’s offbeat portrayal into the clash of one brother’s longing for a more innocent time with the other’s continuous need for technology and fortune.

Technical: B-

Acting: B

Story: C+

Overall: B-

Written by: Karen Benardello

Nature Calls (2012) on IMDb

Nature Calls Movie Review

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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