Wild America (film)

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This article is about the film. For the television show, see Wild America (TV series).
Wild America
Wild America poster.jpg
Wild America theatrical poster
Directed by William Dear
Produced by Gary Barber
James G. Robinson
Irby Smith
Mark Stouffer
Steve Tisch
Bill Todman Jr.
Written by David Michael Wieger
Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Devon Sawa
Scott Bairstow
Music by Joel McNeely
Cinematography David Burr
Edited by O. Nicholas Brown
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • July 2, 1997 (1997-07-02)
Running time
106 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $7,324,662[1]

Wild America is a 1997 adventure comedy film directed by William Dear, written by David Michael Wieger, and starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa and Scott Bairstow.


The film opens in the summer of 1967 with Marshall Stouffer (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) being chased by his two older brothers, Mark (Devon Sawa) and Marty (Scott Bairstow). The two oldest brothers love using Marshall to film him in stunts, which he dislikes. Occasionally Marty and Mark will show footage of their antics in their garage to all their friends. Time and time again, Marshall secretly gets revenge on his brothers' pranks against him by pulling diminutively malicious stunts like cleaning the toilet with his brothers' toothbrushes, and filling their canteens with downstream river water that they were at that current time urinating in.

Mark and Marty have a dream of filming dangerous animals around the country, and the dream starts when they find a rare, special camera in a shop where they have their films developed. Much against Marty Sr.'s (their father's) recommendation, Agnes (their mother) loans them the money she was saving up and they begin planning their trip. Their father is against this idea.

The brothers then want to take the next step by traveling across the country, but again, the father says no. Mark and Marty finally however convince their father to let them go. All set, Marty and Mark begin their trip using the family's beat up 1956 Chevrolet Suburban and just aways into the trip, they are surprised to find out Marshall couldn't leave them and therefore somehow snuck in the back and came along. The mother is worried, but through enough of a brief heartfelt persuasion from Marshall, she lets him go. She tells Marty to have Marshall transported back in peace wherever they are in the following two weeks. Marty reluctantly agrees to it, then scoldingly tells Marshall that he will endure consequences for this little pulled stunt. The overall goal of the trip in Marty's mind is to find a legendary cave located somewhere in the western states said to be filled with hundreds of bears. Marty learns of it when reading an article in a wildlife magazine, which took it from a trapper's journal from the 19th century.

The three brothers start camping. First, they miss a shot at catching an eagle, then go to film some alligators, and start by seeing a man who was attacked by an alligator. As they go in a swamp on a boat, Mark throws some bait but it lands in the trees, trying to retrieve it, his clothing gets stuck in a branch underwater and he starts to drown, Marshall and Marty drive the boat in attempts to save him, but it crashes into another branch, which sends Marshall flying into the water. Marshall gets a knife from Marty and cuts Mark loose, but Marshall is now dealing with a bigger problem; he and the alligator are face to face. Marshall is able to get back on the boat in time. When they get back to the hut, the alligator man (Strango) tells them about how back when he served in the Korean War he befriended a fellow soldier named Phil. Strango and Phil would exchange stories about their wilderness adventures. Strango would talk about hunting alligators and Phil would tell tall tales about bears. This rouses Marty's attention and he asks about it. Strango states that Phil was talking about a cave full of hundreds of bears somewhere "out West."

The brothers then stop at a beachside grill on the southern coast of Louisiana where they get a small dose of the Vietnam War fueled counter culture of the 1960s. Mark catches the eye of two British women who are hippies. They take the brothers to a nude beach. Marty and Mark and the two hippies go swimming while Marshall guards the truck and the camera. As a prank, Marshall underhandedly manages to capture the event on film. After the swim the brothers get back on the road much to Mark's reluctance, because they told him that there were a lot of animals that they could even film where they were going. Marty made it clear that he turned it down because it's not what they're after.

They drive northwest until they reach Devil's Playground in Colorado, "the last home of the wild American wolf." Devil's Playground is located on government protected land. They catch footage of a wolf creeping up on a doe. Then as the wolf is about to ambush the doe there is a series of explosions. The brothers look up and see two F-4 Phantoms flying overhead. The pilots see the brothers and turn around, firing missiles at them eventually hitting a giant boulder knocking the three down. As they get up a herd of wild horses comes thundering towards them. They get in the truck just in time to film it. When the horses pass Marshall sees an owl that looks a lot like his owl Leona. The three follow it and discover a cave. On the wall of the cave is an ancient Indian drawing of a cave filled with bear-shaped figures. Marty and Mark draw it on Marshall's chest and show it to an old Indian woman. The woman tells them that it's located near Arapaho Peak in Montana.

The brothers take another long drive all the way up to that mountain and try to attract bears with a duck call, but end up attracting a baby moose that Marshall thinks is a deer. As Marshall starts to pet it, its father comes and starts chasing him. Marshall tries to escape it, but he gets on its head and antlers as the moose runs into a river. Marshall is about to drown until Bigfoot the Mountain Man (Danny Glover) saves him. That night around the campfire Marty and Bigfoot talk about bears and the cave. Bigfoot dismisses the cave as a myth but tells them to talk to Carrie Stokes whose husband was killed by a bear. The next day the brothers drive to Stokes's cabin in Willis Peak. Stokes tells the story of how she was mauled by a bear. Her fiance, Judd then went after the bears in their cave but was killed by them two days before the two were to be married (September 3). When they return to the truck the brothers discover they were robbed of all of their important supplies such as food, sleeping bags, and money, except for the film. This whole deal leads to a fight between Mark and Marty, which ends up with Mark receiving a minor fracture in his leg.

Dismayed by Mark's broken leg, the brothers begin to head home. As they drive Marshall sees a woman laying down flowers near a grave, and reminds the brothers what Carrie does on that day, and they go back and follow her to the cave. They get in and film the bears, but wake all of them up, making them angry. They get some good shots, and sing a song their dad would sing which puts the bears to sleep. Just as they had succeeded and are ready to leave, bats start defecating on them, and one drop lands on a flashlight causing it's light to explode leading to them waking up and attack them, leading to the bears waking back up this time in a rage. Marshall distracts one of the grizzlies, and tells the other two to leave, because he "has a way out".

The two brothers get out safely, but Marshall has a problem trying to escape the bear as he crawls through a small tunnel in the cave. He gets out, and gets the camera back. In the next shot, the three brothers are close to home, but Marshall (who was supposed to fly a plane with his dad one day) despite being underaged for it is driving with his brothers asleep in the back. Marshall imagines himself flying a plane. He becomes so distracted by the daydreaming that he ends up crashing into two mailboxes and the town sign. Therefore, their dad has to come pick them up. Just like on the way out, on the way back, they pass a pub where their stuck-up friends tend to hang out who this time greet them with mockery. They get back home, and their mom tells them she rented the school gym for them to show what they filmed.

While driving, their father crashes his truck and ends up in the hospital. Marshall teaches himself how to fly a plane, and in spite of scaring his family over such a risking pursuit, Marshall flies over the hospital so his dad can see. This made his mom distressed enough to nearly censure him when he returns. Soon after, they all go to the hospital and Marshall talks to his dad about how he should let his boys have freedom and let Mark and Marty do what they want to do.

They display their film at the school gym, and everyone claps, but when their adversarial affiliate DC makes a rude comment, their dad begins to applaud, having the crowd cheer and clap. DC, who is always being a "devil's advocate" from the beginning, becomes the only one who wants his money back, which he gets from Marty Sr., but everyone else comments all of the brothers with compliments. Marshall and his Dad smile at each other at the end, and there is a dialogue telling where the family ended up going after that.



  1. ^ Wild America Box Office Mojo

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