No, I'm not really that much of a fan of Adam Sandler (who produced here)'s films anymore, although "Happy Gilmore" still remains a low-brow classic. Schneider's suprise hit "Deuce Bigalow" had its share of laughs, but didn't get too many solid laughs out of me. What has made both of his recent films work is that they know exactly what they are: silly, jokey vehicles that are good-natured and not very mean-spirited, but still not without a slight edge to it all.
Schneider plays Marvin, a wannabe police officer who is made fun of by his neighbors, their pets, his co-workers, visiting children on field trips - you get the idea, the guy's a loser. One day, he gets into a rather horrific car crash and is saved by a oddball doctor who lives out in the woods, who puts spare animal parts inside him. Finding himself awake and out in the middle of nowhere, Marvin goes on with his life, thinking his newfound senses and abilities are due to his drinking the powerful "badger milk" that he's seen on a TV infomerical.
Around this time he meets a tree-hugging, animal-shelter working girl named Rianna (Colleen Haskell from the first "Survivor") and the two have a nice romance, although after a dinner date he marks his territory on her doorstep. Haskell is not only wonderful, but suprisingly terrific in the role. She doesn't get that much screen time, but she has a light, sweet presence that's accessable and engaging. If she doesn't get more parts, it would certainly be a shame. And, it's also nice to see that she seems to have survived "Survivor" with relatively few scratches (seeing a clip of her badly bruised and bug-eaten legs on the "Survivor" highlights DVD was rather gross).
Anyways, "Animal" delivered exactly what I expected - no more, no less. It was nice not to have to sit through a low-brow comedy that used fart jokes every few minutes (cough, cough..."Evolution"...), although I'm sure that a few went by during the proceedings. There's also a few decent supporting performances from John C. McGinley and Ed Asner. Even the always amusing (although I seem to be the only one who thinks so) Norm MacDonald pops up in an extended cameo. The ending is even sufficently entertaining - the whole thing works because Schneider tries hard to sell the material, and, for once in a comedy this Summer, it's actually funny stuff.
It's not exactly high art, but I certainly enjoyed myself during its brisk 90 minutes and had some good laughs, which seems to be a rarity this Summer.
VIDEO: "The Animal" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's an example of what the studio is capable of producing when they do their very best. Sharpness and detail is consistently strong, while there's occasionally very nice depth to the image.
I really saw little in the way of problems throughout the movie. A speck or two on the print popped up, but I certainly didn't see any further wear, which I wouldn't expect from such a recent picture. Edge enhancement was not in attendance and the film remained free of pixelation or any other faults.
As with directors the Farrelly Brothers who rely on cinematographer Mark Irwin to make their films at least moderately visually interesting, Schneider has had cinematographer Peter Lyons Collister for both "Animal" and "Deuce Bigalow". Collister does a fine job capturing both the action and the often lovely background scenery. The film's bright and rich color palette looked superb throughout the presentation here, appearing well-saturated and flawless.
SOUND: As with Spade's "Joe Dirt", "Animal"'s Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation seems to just want to crank the music and let the rest of the cards fall where they may. Unfortunately, it's not playing with much of a hand, as it finds itself showing off the usual "comedy audio". Surrounds come into play for the music very nicely, but rarely do they present anything else. Audio quality was terrific, as the music had a nice, bassy presence and dialogue came through with fine clarity.
MENUS:: A very funny animated menu with several different "joke" names for the options - for example, when "play movie" is selected, it says "fetch the movie" instead. Little animated versions of Schneider's character also sit above the options and occasionally do stuff.
Commentaries: This commentary is from actor Rob Schneider and similarly named producer John Schnieder. While not quite a laugh-riot, Schnieder and Schneider are consistently funnier than David Spade proved to be for his "Joe Dirt" commentary. Actor Schnieder does a fine job joking about his experiences working on the film and pointing out such details as the inspirations for jokes, where material was cut and what scenes were re-shoots. Producer Schneider really doesn't say much, but chimes in with some additional information about a scene when he can add to what actor Schneider is saying. An additional note: although I believe he does get one through during the commentary, actor Schneider's occasional cursing is bleeped.
The second commentary is from director Luke Greenfield, whose first film was "The Animal". Providing a low-key discussion, the commentary talks quite a bit about the director's experiences as he very quickly found himself on the set of a modestly budgeted major motion picture. As "Animal" isn't exactly a tech-heavy picture, there's not exactly a wealth of production details to talk about, but the director does share some information about material that was either re-shot or had to be cut. There's a little bit of discussion of what's going on on-screen here and there and some praise-heavy moments, but overall, I thought this was an enjoyable and occasionally informative track.
Badger Milk/Deleted Scenes: There's two different "deleted scenes" options: there is a section in the supplements where 4 mildly amusing deleted moments are offered on their own. There's also an additional feature called "badger milk" which, if selected, brings up a little logo occasionally throughout the movie. When selected, there is an introduction by Schneider and writer Tom Brady to a piece of footage that was left on the cutting room floor at that point. Afterwards, viewers are taken back to where they left off.
Comedy Central: The Animal: This is a not particularly informative, but occasionally quite funny 22 minute featurette that originally aired on Comedy Central. Much of it simply revolves around selling the movie and talking about the story, but it's all presented in an amusing fashion and the interviews occasionally bring forth a few good jokes. Hosted by Schneider and includes interviews with Adam Sandler (very funny), Colleen Haskell and others. Worth a viewing.
Also: "Animal Instincts" (9 min featurette), "What's In Marvin?" game, trailers for "Cable Guy", "Animal", "Joe Dirt" and "Big Daddy", production notes and filmographies.
Final Thoughts: I found "The Animal" to be a guilty pleasure - a good-natured comedy that offered some occasionally inspired laughs. Tristar's new Special Edition DVD boasts excellent video quality and respectable audio quality along with some great extra features. Recommended for at least a rental if you enjoy low-brow comedies and a purchase if you're already a fan.