Nature Calls


There are few things in America other than model railroading and the good people of the Sertoma club more earnest than scouting. So a comedy with a scoutmaster hero is declaring its intentions at the outset, pitting an idealistic naïf against social forces of inertia and shallowness. In Todd Rohal’s Nature Calls, Patton Oswalt is Randy, a sweet-hearted, second-generation scoutmaster of a troop of disinterested charges with varying degrees of ADD. When the scouts skip a planned camping trip in favor of a sleepover and a satellite-TV binge at the home of Randy’s obnoxious brother (Johnny Knoxville), Randy basically kidnaps the kids and takes them into the woods. It wants to be a comedic coming-of-age, a wilderness Bad News Bears in which a bunch of funny, unpolished kids cross the threshold to adulthood amid dick jokes and farting. But The Daily Show‘s Rob Riggle, as the sexist, racist, and probably clinically psychopathic Gentry, is a howling, one-man running of the bulls that first threatens to charge down and trample everyone and everything else in the film, and then just goes ahead and does it. His presence alters the dynamics of every scene, heightening the film’s pitch to numbing amplitude. A gifted performer, Riggle might need a director better able to dial back his comic volatility. The Bad News Bears also had two elements lacking and sorely needed in Nature Calls: a girl who could stand up to the boys and a well-earned climactic triumph. The unmitigated disaster of the camping trip just stays disastrous, the story never really finding its way from adversity to heroic redemption.