Peter Gaulke (Steve Zahn) is on the phone, reflecting on the sorry state of affairs that has landed him going nowhere fast, with only his bong for company. His father used to host a wildlife show on TV, and made quite a success of it, but when he died the onus was on Peter to keep the show running, and frankly he had not been up to the task. He and his crew would shoot footage when they could, and with Peter presenting it in his own inimitable, if none too scientific, fashion they undoubtedly had something distinctive to show the public, but in that 3.00am slot they were not exactly cleaning up in the ratings...
Strange Wilderness is not the type of film to garner good reviews, being a stoner comedy which luxuriated in its idiocy, but it is the type of film that gathers a cult following among those who responded to its unpretentious stylings and relentlessly stupid humour. It was a production of Adam Sandler's Happy Madison company, which should give you some idea of the intellectual level they were operating on, but if you were willing to give it a chance, as a select few were, then you might have found something a lot funnier than many of the movies Sandler had starred in himself. Just one thing, though: it had nowhere near their success.
But who needs success when you have the gift of laughter, right? Written by former Saturday Night Live scribes Peter Gaulke and Fred Wolf (who for some reason named their two main characters after themselves), this was all about delivering the gags, some of which would indeed make you gag if they were not so hard to take seriously. Peter (as in Zahn's character) comes up with a great idea to boost their ratings and ensure they are not canceled, an idea so obvious that it's surprising that nobody had ever thought of it before: track down Bigfoot. For some reason they go to find the famed North American apeman in South America, but surely as a plan it cannot fail?
Of course it can fail, and in fact that's what the audience is counting on to secure those laughs. The fact that hardly anyone has filmed Bigfoot before doesn't seem to faze this lot, and add to that the further point that the creature might not exist anyway doesn't mean that they're not convinced they will succeed, that go-getting, can-do spirit that made America great. Yes, they're incompetent, but they don't let that hold them back, even if most of the crew would rather sit around getting high, or so it seems - it's inspiring in its way. No matter that even at the end of the film they're not much better off than where they started, this is about the value of their companionship.
About the journey rather than the destination, you know the type of thing, and along with that goes a bunch of male bonding - apart from with the sole female member of the team (Ashley Scott) - and crass humour. Sort of like getting your dick caught in a turkey's beak, and if that doesn't sound funny to you you'll know to leave Strange Wilderness well alone, as it does cross the line between slapstick and outright sadism a little too readily. Nevertheless, there is affection there, although it's best described as tough love in light of its hijinks: shark attacks, pygmy attacks, all kinds of attacks really. In addition, some reliable guest stars show up from Harry Hamlin's mean rival presenter and Robert Patrick's adventurer (don't ask to see his scars) to Joe Don Baker as the man with the map to Bigfoot and Ernest Borgnine as the loyal cameraman they leave behind. Everyone seems to be enjoying themsleves, which doesn't always translate to the viewers, but in this case you feel you can indulge them if you're so disposed. Music by Waddy Wachtel.