Heading it is comedian Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), here doing a variation of his ever-reliable, ever-lovable teddy-bear character as Randy. A second-generation Scoutmaster of the Boy Scouts of America, he has inherited his father’s once-vibrant Troop 5516. Today, however, in an Xbox age, enjoying the great outdoors holds no appeal to most kids.
As one so bluntly puts it, “Camping is for ugly women.”
Eager to please his dying dad, Randy kidnaps an entire birthday party of boys out from under the nose of his A-hole ATM-selling brother (Jackass Johnny Knoxville, playing against type) and breaks into a state park in which nature lovers no longer are allowed to tread.
Mayhem predictably ensues, in such an ouch-and-chase manner that the movie could be slapped with the title of The Bad News Bears Go Camping, and it would stick without the edges curling. The kids all have more fun than the audience, however, as most of the jokes — ones involving Bluetooth and Hoobastank notwithstanding — are built upon profanity, rude behavior and too-simple slapstick. The one good recurring bit has Maura Tierney (TV’s The Good Life), as Randy’s sister-in-law, being wooed by one of the underage boys at her son’s party.
One wishes all of Nature Calls carried such spark, because it wastes the talents of a fine cast that includes Rob Riggle, Darrell Hammond and the late Patrice O’Neal, proven comic personalities one and all. Again, though, everyone is so genial, the movie has a strange power to remain watchable without generating laughs. —Rod Lott