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Surviving the Wild Review

Surviving the Wild is a 2018 adventure about a boy who, against the wishes of his parents, steals the ashes of his dead Grandfather and runs away into the wilderness with his dog.

Coping with death is only part of the story in Patrick Alessandrin‘s latest film Surviving the Wild, a family movie that centers on a boy dealing with a loss of a grandfather and the breakdown of his parent’s well-intentioned but failing marriage. Keeping its target audience always well in hand, it balances most of the story well, mixing a bit of fantasy and adventure with some sincere moments of a boy’s crucial coming of age.

Fourteen-year-old Shaun (Aidan Cullen) attends his grandpa Gus’ (Jon Voight) funeral, a man most at the ceremony recall with great favor as a sports coach and mentor. This is most especially true for Shaun, who bonded strongly with Gus, his grandfather having taught him all about finding the best within him. So attached to him is he that during the reception at his mother Rachel’s (Vail Bloom) home, he begins to not only see Gus but interact with him as well, Gus cracking jokes and musing over his own death. Rachel is divorcing Shaun’s father Kristopher (Jamie Kennedy), both good people but at the end of their relationship, and the demise is coming at the worst time. Inspired by Gus to be a little rebellious, he decides to steal his grandpa’s ashes and take them to a nearby mountain in Kentucky and spread them there, lying to his parents in order to get away. Once there, along with his grandfather’s old dog Riley, things aren’t so easy, and even with Gus’ help, finds himself facing more trouble than he ever imagined.

So there are questions that immediately leap to mind and at one point, Shaun does ask Gus, who can hold conversations with his grandson, if he is a ghost or a spirit or only in his head, and while it’s a throwaway moment, is crucial in maintaining any credulity with the story. This little gateway gives the children watching a chance to sort of get past the obvious and settle in on what Shaun is doing, which is an extraordinarily risky and dangerously motivated act, which is kind of the point. Shaun drives off in Gus’ pickup truck, crosses state lines and takes to the mountains all by himself, carrying a backpack of supplies from the garage, intending on spending a few nights in the forest. This will be first and foremost on any adult’s mind watching, but in setting up the film’s message, sort of acts as a parable in shaping Shaun’s journey.

Granted, the film addresses some of these issues as well and allows Shaun to come to terms with his actions, trying to find his place in that hard spot between being a boy and becoming a man. Alessandrin is careful not to put Shaun in too desperate a situation, keeping the drama low so as not to be too frightening for younger eyes, yet is also mindful of the consequences. However, an odd incident with a couple of stereotypical gun-toting hillbilly mountain men – curiously reminiscent of those villains in Voight’s own wilderness survival film Deliverance – feels a little out of place. It’s a slight misstep for me, one that veers from the premise and detracts, which is too bad. Still, as Shaun does get himself into some serious trouble, Gus is always there to guide him, and whether he is a spirit or a ghost or only in Shaun’s head, his presence is important and that says a lot. While the adults in the story, as they often are in movies like this, aren’t exactly the most reliable people, they at least come around and the message of family does the trick.

Surviving the Wild: CONFIRMED AMC THEATERS FOR 1/12 RELEASE

CHICAGO – Streets of Woodfield 20                 LOS ANGELES – Universal City Walk Stadium 19

DALLAS-FT WORTH – Irving 10                     NEW YORK – Jersey Gardens 20

DENVER – Highlands Ranch 24                        HOUSTON – Katy Mills 20

KANSAS CITY – Independence 20                   PHILADELPHIA – Neshaminy 24

PHOENIX – Westgate 20                                  TAMPA/ST.PETE – Woodlands Square 20

Surviving the Wild Review

Movie description: Surviving the Wild is a 2018 adventure about who who, against the wishes of his parents, steals the ashes of his dead Grandfather and runs away into the wilderness with his dog.

Director(s): Patrick Alessandrin

Actor(s): Jon Voight, Jamie Kennedy, Vail Bloom

Genre: Family

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