Um, not the kick in the pants he needs
By Jen Chaney
Friday, April 30, 2010
Brendan Fraser has done serious drama ("Gods and Monsters"). He has done epic blockbusters ("The Mummy," "Journey to the Center of the Earth"). And yes, he has done his share of juvenile comedies. (Surely somewhere, at this moment, a cable network is airing "Bedazzled" or "Encino Man.")
But with the eco-conscious family comedy "Furry Vengeance," the oafishly handsome star has finally found the movie that really allows him to showcase his acting range. Example: In one "Vengeance" scene, Fraser gets blasted in the crotch with a gushing garden hose. Then, in another, vastly different scene, an angry raccoon bites him in the crotch. And in a third scene, Fraser straddles the peaked roof of his exurban home while chasing a pesky crow, then slips and falls, totally nailing himself in the . . .
Sigh. Yes, "Furry Vengeance" is that kind of kid-friendly comedy, one that finds its delights in the varying degrees of slapsticky torture inflicted on Dan Sanders (Fraser), a well-intentioned real estate developer who, at the behest of his maniacal boss (Ken Jeong), is razing acres of forestland to make room for an allegedly environmentally friendly, single-family subdivision called Rocky Springs. It's the same old story: Pave paradise, put up a bunch of green houses that allow Americans to park their hybrid SUVs in two-car garages.
Of course, the cuddly woodland creatures that live in that forest aren't exactly in favor of the proposal. So they form their own preservation posse and pool their resources -- acorns, boulders, a surprising deftness for hot-wiring cars -- to unleash all manner of Animal Planet fury on Dan. He gets blasted with skunk juice. He gets carjacked by a wily raccoon. He even winds up with his pants down in a portable toilet that gets thrown into a tree by a really ticked-off bear. (Did I mention that Fraser starred in the excellent "Gods and Monsters"? That's a fact that may slip your mind while you watch him jostle around, unpantsed, inside a flying potty.)
To be fair, Fraser -- who energetically mugs his way through the nonstop nature show from hell -- isn't really the problem here. The problem, or problems, stem from the lazy, unfunny script; the weak computer-generated animals (never have God's creatures looked less lifelike while dancing to Chic's "Le Freak"); and the squandering of so much talent. Brooke Shields, who plays Dan's wife, is stuck in a thankless role that allows her to adopt facial expressions ranging all the way from exasperation to polite befuddlement. And usually spot-on supporting players like Jeong and Angela Kinsey from TV's "The Office" don't get a solid shot at generating hilarity either. Even the obligatory blooper reel that runs during the closing credits is painful in its desperation to generate laughs.
"Furry Vengeance" may teach young viewers that being kind to the Earth involves action, not just self-serving lip service. That's a good thing. But that theme has already been covered more effectively in other family-oriented fare such as "Over the Hedge" and "Hoot." Honestly, the mental image most likely to stay put after "Vengeance" ends is one of Fraser taking yet another hit to his private parts. And honestly, who needs that in their consciousness, eco- or otherwise?
* PG. At area theaters. Contains some rude humor, mild language and brief smoking. 91 minutes.