This review originally appeared at Cinematical.
Oh, Brendan Fraser. I have now watched yet another film in which you engage in slapstick with CGI animals. Granted, Furry Vengeance isn't even the low point of your career. But it's still -- CGI animals? Again?In the spirit of full disclosure, I want to explain that I am deeply, heart-breakingly in love with Brendan Fraser. This affair, which exists entirely in my own mind but has never blossomed into full-blown stalking, has been going on for a long, long time, despite the fact that most of his films are pedestrian DVD fodder.
If you're confused by my passion for the star of Monkeybone and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, I would suggest that you run immediately to Netflix or your nearest video store, and watch Gods and Monsters with Fraser and Sir Ian McKellan. Or The Quiet American with Fraser and Sir Michael Caine. Or the odd, charming little indie flick Still Breathing, which didn't have knights in the cast, although Celeste Holm played Fraser's grandmother.
In each of these films, Brendan Fraser showed that he's capable of being an A-list movie star and an accomplished actor. He's also handsome as sin, affable, self-deprecating, and wildly charismatic. Yeah, I'm biased, what with him being my imaginary movie boyfriend and all. But I'm still right.
In Furry Vengeance, however, Fraser merely serves as mugging, gibbering foil to a bunch of angry animals who do terrible things to him. Sometimes, movies of this nature are quite funny -- Gore Verbinski's Mouse Hunt comes to mind -- but usually they are not. This one isn't.
Fraser plays an employee of a developer who intends to raze a forest to build a community of "green" homes. The animals who live in the forest, led by a wily raccoon, are preternaturally intelligent, understand what's at stake, and decide to fight back. Thus, Fraser finds himself locked in his car with spraying skunks (several times), conked on the head, nearly drowned, bitten in the crotch, stung by bees, and other wacky outrages. Naturally, his wife (Brooke Shields) and teenage son (Matt Prokop) think he's going mad. And, naturally, he ends up in zany, humiliating situations in front of his boss. And, naturally, he eventually comes to see the animals' point of view -- although it could really be a case of Stockholm syndrome, considering all that they put him through.
The most impressive thing about Furry Vengeance, which is grindingly unfunny throughout its painful, sluggish 92 minutes, is that so many genuinely funny people signed on to be a part of it. Rob Riggle opens the film as Fraser's predecessor, run off the road by the forest denizens after he flings a lit cigar out the window of his SUV; Ken Jeong (Community's Senor Chang) is Fraser's boss, and The Office's Angela Kinsey is Jeong's assistant; Samantha Bee (The Daily Show) has a few lines as a teacher who works with Shields; and Toby Huss (Reno 911!, King of the Hill) is an officious security guard. At various points in the film, each of these actors was required to look off camera and shout, "Oh no!" or ask, "What now?" or both, so that those lines could be spliced in between shots of weasels and crows doing all those terrible things to Brendan Fraser. It had to be the easiest paycheck they've ever earned.
To be fair, the eco-friendly message that ripping up forests to build more houses is, you know, bad for nature may be new to some of the kids that this family-friendly comedy is targeting (as part of the film's marketing, a Furry Vengeance-loaded study guide about animal habitats was made available for free to teachers), but it takes a back seat to the physical comedy and lame sight gags. And for a movie with a lefty-liberal message, what's with all the stereotypes? The Hispanic foreman of Fraser's work crew is an only mildly unfortunate choice, but when Fraser's clothes are stolen and he dresses in his wife's pink sweat suit while carrying a rainbow umbrella? That's offensive in its nudge-nudge implicit gay-bashing, and embarrassing for everyone.
Fraser looks puffy and run-down in Furry Vengeance, as if he'd deliberately decided to slough off on the gym and eat a few extra cupcakes for the role. Maybe he thought it would bring more depth and realism to his performance. Despite that, and the badness of this film, and the badness of most of his movies in general, I still love him. But man ... he makes it really hard sometimes.