Furry Vengeance

What It Is

Dan (Brendan Fraser) means well. He’s also clueless, a point underlined when he first appears in Furry Vengeance, stepping out the front door of his big white house, coffee cup in hand. “Ah, nature!” he announces, just as the camera cuts to show his view -- a subdivision in the making. Yes, there are lawns and a few shrubs amid the construction, but it’s plain that Dan doesn’t have much understanding of “nature.”

This makes him the ideal employee for Neal (Ken Jeong), who assigns him to oversee the development of the area surrounding this big white house, a development that bills itself as “green” but is determinedly destructive. Dan has temporarily moved his reluctant family from Chicago to Oregon in order to do just that. But when the job is extended another four years, Dan’s wife Tammy (Brooke Shields) and teenager Tyler (Matt Prokop, of High School Musical 3) are furious. Not only do they miss their city lives, but they’re also increasingly unhappy with Dan’s mindless capitulation to Neal.

Also unhappy with Dan is the nearby community of woodland creatures, since their homes are subject to destruction by the development. Led by a raccoon, a squad of squirrels, skunks, crows, foxes, and bears set about harassing Dan into leaving them alone. Much like Kevin in Home Alone, the animals begin rigging booby traps, keeping Dan awake all night, crashing his car, and locking him in his car with an army of skunks. Each assault leads to some sort of not-so-comic catastrophe-- Dan ends up with his eyes swollen shut, face bruised, body battered and doused with tomato juice.

Unable to convince Tammy that his stories about the animals are real, Dan goes so far as to visit with a therapist (Wallace Shawn, whose scrunched-up face suggests he finds the whole business as distasteful as you’re likely to). Indeed, Tammy is so confounded by Dan’s silliness that she finds solace working on the pro-environment, “Forest Festival.” When Tyler finds true love with an environmentally conscious local girl (Skyler Samuels), both he and his mom confront Dan, who does -- at last -- come to his senses.

Why It’s Fun

Truth be told, this movie is not much fun. Repeatedly, Dan must run about in filthy or ravaged clothing, trip over his own feet, and be covered in yucky substances. His masculinity is challenged (in particular by a security guard who bullies everyone who steps in front of him). While Fraser seems a good sport, willing to galumph about in all manner of embarrassing situations, Dan’s ignorance is eventually just annoying.

Who’s Going To Love It

My fellow moviegoers -- those under eight, anyway -- were entertained by Dan’s many falls -- off his chair, off the roof, out of trees or out of his car. But even these generous souls seemed bored by the film’s incoherent plot and poorly animated animals (some look like models, others look like they’re from another dimension -- though they sort of laugh, none of them talks). You get the idea that no one working on this film thought much of it through: it’s more a series of slapstick episodes leading to an unsatisfying finale.

What To Be Aware Of

The film includes plenty of product placement, including Nike sportswear (Dan wears assorted t-shirts and caps with logos), Apple computers, Wii, Kindle, and iPod.

It’s also fraught with potentially troubling material, most all delivered as broad comedy. It begins with a colleague of Dan’s being run off a cliff by the animals, a crash that would surely kill him if he didn’t live in this cartoonish universe (his yelling from off-screen suggests he survives). And at the end of the film, the birds begin pooping on a crowd of Forest Festival attendees: ewww.

When you first meet Tyler, he complains to Dan about living in the “wilderness,” a case he supports by showing Dan his laptop, where he’s found a photo of a boy killed by a snake in the woods (the corpse, only on screen for a few seconds, is still pretty grotesque for a kids’ movie).

Dan suffers repeated shots to his crotch, whether animals target him with projectiles or he falls on the pointy part of his shingled roof (ouch). Other indignities include wearing Tammy’s jogging outfit, which makes the construction crewmembers jeer and laugh (and borders on a homophobic joking), as well as being sprayed by skunks until he turns a nasty shade of grey-green. He chases birds, gets trapped in a portable potty and covered in poop (you don’t see him in this condition, only everyone else’s horrified response). Still, when he decides he needs to run over a raccoon in the road, Dan’s unhinging is officially pathetic rather than funny.

Other questionable gags include scenes featuring an elderly lady (Alice Drummond) who teaches at the school where Tammy finds a job; though her forgetfulness is an occasion for a joke targeting tenure, the old lady looks mostly pitiable, especially when Tammy starts rolling her eyes.

The movie also teeters into racist joking when it makes fun of Neal. When he gets excited, starts yelping in an Asian-ish language, so hysterical and incoherent that sounds awfully close to ugly caricature. The clownish machismo of the chief construction guy (Ricky Garcia), who likes to blow up beaver dams and make it “look like an accident.” Not to mention Neal’s financial investor (Gerry Bednob), who seems awfully eager to be the very first Indian-born Indian ever who wants to kill off cuddly forest animals.

See-It-Again Points

1 out of 10

Film Information

Furry Vengeance
Director: Roger Kumble
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, Ken Jeong, Matt Prokop, Skyler Samuels, Samantha Bee, Wallace Shawn
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Year: 2010
Rated: PG-13
US Premiere: April 30, 2010
UK Premiere: May 7, 2010
Official Website
Official Trailer
Movie Pictures


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