“Furry Vengeance” is essentially a live-action version of a standard-issue animated cartoon pitting woodland critters against interloping humans—with Brendan Fraser as a nicer version of Elmer Fudd. Unfortunately, while it might have worked at the three-minute length of a Loony Tunes short, when dragged out to ninety the movie will test the patience even of the kids at whom it’s obviously aimed.
Fraser goes the full slapstick route—and then some—as Dan Sanders, an executive in a homebuilding firm who’s relocated his wife Tammy (Brooke Shields) and teen son Tyler (Matt Prokop) from the big city to a secluded site in the Oregon woods to supervise one of his firm’s supposedly “green” development projects. Unfortunately, the construction—which is hardly as eco-friendly as Dan thinks—arouses the hostility of the forest animals, and led by a particularly inventive raccoon, they come up with elaborate contrivances to harass Dan and undermine the project.
That’s all well and good—kids will probably enjoy Dan’s tortures, and the use of real animals instead of the animatronic variety gives it a distinctive look. But the sheer number and repetition of the gags grow numbing (and sometimes positively cruel—there are entirely too many potty jokes and crotch hits), and though Fraser spares no effort to put them over, he gradually runs out of tricks. Meanwhile Shields, who isn’t subjected to similar humiliation, plays the amazed and concerned observer of her husband’s antics; it’s a role composed almost entirely of reaction shots.
The same can be said of Prokop, a gangly kid who’s further hobbled with one of the subplots added to prolong the script to feature length. Tyler, you see, is unhappy torn away from his friends back in Chicago, until he meets local lass Amber (Skyler Samuels), a nature-friendly type who converts him to the cause of stopping the destruction of the forest. But that plot thread is positively engaging compared to the one involving Dan’s sleazy boss Neal (Ken Jeong, familiar from the Apatow factory output), who’s portrayed as a strutting, egomaniacal Oriental stereotype—or the running joke about an addled teacher.
And to make matters worse, “Furry Vengeance” can’t follow the Bugs Bunny-Road Runner route and maintain its man-against-animal scenario to a bitter end. Instead, in the tradition of today, it has to go soft and have Dan see the error of his ways and repent. The last half-hour of the movie follows a predictable path in showing him join the animals to sabotage the project. And as if that weren’t enough, it closes with what amounts to a gag reel in which the cast prance their way through a series of joke “music videos” recalling old movies (including, heaven help us, “The Blue Lagoon”). Mugging, bad makeup and winks to the audience are the major components. They seem to be what director Roger Kumble specializes in.
Devotees of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” may appreciate seeing Samantha Bee and Rob Riggle in bit parts. And for sophisticates Wallace Shawn, of all people, shows up for a scene as an unhelpful psychiatrist. But ninety percent of “Furry Vengeance” is Brendan Fraser falling down and flailing about, and try as he might, his frenzied daffiness might make you want to duck.