Wild America

on July 04, 1997 by Jean Oppenheimer
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   Kids from six to 16 will get a kick out of "Wild America," a fact-based outdoor adventure story about three brothers who spend a summer roaming the American wilderness photographing animals. Prepubescent and teenaged girls can fest their eyes on a trio of high school hearthrhrobs: Jonathan Taylor Thomas ("The Adventures of Pinocchio"), Devon Sawa ("Casper") and Scott Bairstow ("White Fang 2"); boys in the audience will easily relate to the camaraderie and daredevil antics of the lead characters.
   The Morgan Creek production is based on the childhood experiences of producer Mark Stouffer and his two brothers, Marshall and Marty, who spent the summer of 1967 driving across America documenting on film the nation's vanishing wildlife. The story is seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Marshall (Thomas), and anyone who has been tormented by older siblings will instantly identify with the imaginative and spirited bullying to which he is subjected. This includes being yanked up trees, dragged behind cars, and strapped to a chair and dropped into six feet of water--all of which Mark and Marty capture on 8mm film. That Marshall survived childhood is a miracle.
   But, proving the dictum that "those things that don't kill us make us stronger," Marshall's constant taunting has made him fearless, which proves a blessing on the brothers' journey. His ingenuity and spunk save the brothers on more than one occasion from the likes of hungry alligators, unhappy moose and angry grizzly bears. Luck also has a lot to do with it.
   The Stouffer brothers recorded their adventures on 16mm; it was their first nature documentary and the start of celebrated careers as prize-winning wildlife filmmakers. The three young actors come across as real siblings, filled with mischief, daring, misjudgment, rivalry and at bottom a genuine love and respect for one another. Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa and Scott Bairstow. Directed by William Dear. Written by David Michael Weiger. Produced by James G. Robinson, Irby Smith and Mark Stouffer. A Warner Bros. release. Adventure. Rated PG for language and some adventure peril. Running time: 103 min
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