Like a tormented crack addict drawn back to the sweet soul kiss of a burnt pipe time and again despite full knowledge of the personal consequences, Brendan Fraser keeps attempting the lost art of the live-action cartoon. Forever positioning himself as Hollywood's jester, Fraser pads up for another odyssey of slapstick and genital trauma in "Furry Vengeance," an odious, chintzy, and soul-flattening promenade into sadistic wackiness. Fraser's getting too old for this iffy pratfall business, and "Vengeance" attempts to help the hulking star out by ordering a procession of mischievous CG-enhanced animals to take care of the heavy lifting while Fraser works on his bug-eyed routine.
Moving from the bustle of Chicago into a peaceful suburban development under construction smack dab in the middle of a forest, Dan (Brendan Fraser), his wife Tammy (Brooke Shields), and teen son Tyler (Matt Prokop) are hopeful for the future, though unsure of the seclusion. Trying to suck up to boss Neal (the human Roman candle, Ken Jeong), Dan reluctantly assumes control of a massive community expansion, which would effectively clear away all trees and wildlife from the area. The local animals, unwilling to take the move lying down, declare war on Dan, tormenting and attacking him in secret, leaving everyone else to assume that he's lost his mind.
"Furry Vengeance" opens with a murder, as the animals conspire to off one of Dan's arrogant colleagues, commencing the picture with an unexpected edge, hinting that perhaps director Roger Kumble is capable of drizzling some unpredictability onto this picture. The woodland creature act of homicide is the first and last of the intriguing ideas, as the picture quickly leaps into pure folly to try to keep family audiences beguiled.
While he's never been a substantial actor, Fraser is admirably persistent. "Furry Vengeance" gives the actor a wide berth to live out his Elmer Fudd fantasies, erecting a crude obstacle course of animal defense mechanisms, physical challenges around the house, and over the top reactions that Fraser is drawn to like a moth to a flame. "Furry Vengeance" is a broad picture, but there's nothing behind the screaming and pratfalls, no creativity to make it come alive. It's just 90 minutes of Fraser being urinated on by raccoons, blasted by skunks (on three separate occasions), having his testicles walloped over and over, and finding himself trapped in a tipped portable toilet. The animals even work out a scheme to frame Dan as a cross-dresser. If it sounds pleasingly insane, I assure you it isn't -- the film consists primarily of yelling, horrible improvisations, ugly racism, and some of the shoddiest special effects and editing of the current film year.
Watching Fraser flop around is more than enough for any one movie, but there's an eco-friendly message to tend to, which introduces some domestic drama that isn't welcome, as teen Tyler finds himself drawn to saving the forest through the charms of a young, responsible girl. Yes, between bouts of bird feces attacks and Fraser dressing up in silly costumes to portray the history of the forest, there's a soul to this madness, handed over to the unappealing Prokop. It's a drag, slowing down the chaos to make a point of deforestation no viewer is going to take to heart, not in a film that closes with the cast lip-synching to a Kidz Bop version of the Cypress Hill hit, "Insane in the Brain."
I suppose there should be a gold star awarded to the production for keeping the animals away from celebrity voicing. Instead, the critters communicate through cruddy CG embellishment or the use of thought bubbles, which encourages the Looney Tunes feel of the picture. The animals are permitted a dreamtime dance sequence and plenty of winks to the camera, but I'm thankful they didn't let Whoopi Goldberg or Patrick Warburton near the movie.
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation must balance the needs the cartoon elements and the human contributions, and the BD achieves a nice middle ground, despite giving away the thinly rendered VFX shots. Detail is strong, best when exploring the forest environments, with spectacular textures on flora and fauna. The humans look terrific as well, with slapstick situations allowing for a wide read of reactions. Colors are energetic and nicely separated, with greens and suburban browns punching right on through, giving the image a bright personality. Shadow detail is healthy, providing a clear view of animal fur and costuming achievements.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix keeps the fall-down-go-boom in full effect, with a heavy track that maintains the slapstick urges of the film. Low-end response is active, sustaining the crash mentality of the picture, with the more piercing moments of man vs. animal permitted a dimensional wallop to keep the listener alert. Dialogue is crystal clear, balanced peacefully with the rest of the mix, with Fraser shrieks and yelps allowing for a little more vocal juice than expected. Environmental elements are obviously sweetened to keep to a primary color atmosphere, but the surrounds are engaged with all manner of nature's creatures. A Spanish 5.1 mix is also available.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are offered.
The feature-length audio commentary with director Roger Kumble and actors Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields is unsurprisingly self-congratulatory, with the trio awfully proud of their lousy motion picture. A commentary of giggles, jesting, and platitudes, the gang does provide one truly enlightening morsel of information: it seems the actors rarely interacted with real animals. Performing in front of stuffed animals or nothing at all, the cast had to imagine awful things instead of being directly confronted with them. Still, Fraser is having a ball here watching the film, so at least the picture has one fan.
"Deleted Scenes" (6:11) offer a skunk blast aftermath, a mace attack on Neal's airplane, and a cameo from Derrick Comedy's DC Pierson (in bear costume). It's more noise, but it's all here of you need that in your life.
"The Pitfalls of Pratfalls" (9:57) is a semi-making-of featurette, focusing on the slapstick disposition of the film and how gags were approached. Also covered are the movie's musical inclinations, with dance choreography providing a challenge to the ensemble. Cast and crew interviews are nothing but complimentary here, leaving little to chew on.
"Working with Animals: A Profile of Ken Beggs" (8:42) chats with head trainer Ken Beggs, who assembled an animal army to pack "Furry Vengeance" with all the nonstop action it required.
"Gag Reel" (3:54) puts forward the mix-em-ups, only here the theme is human screaming and animal antics.
A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.
Even those who crave all speeds of animated insanity might find themselves with little to cheer for during "Furry Vengeance," which appears so absurdly crude and slapdash for a premise that might've found righteous stupidity in more confident directorial hands.
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