Remember Yogi Bear? Imagine if he and Boo Boo and all of their animal friends were “maniacal, sociopathic” forest vigilantes ticked off that someone built Jellystone Park in their home, throw in Brendan Fraser, and you get Furry Vengeance.
I wish I was kidding. Look, reviewing the “animals attack Brendan Fraser” movie is a no-win situation for a critic. Aside from the fact that the screening notice reads like orders for a suicide mission, the movie puts the reviewer in the unenviable position of a) kicking Brendan Fraser when he’s down and b) picking apart a movie that will soon be the favorite of every six-year-old on your block.
For Hollywood, it’s a win-win. The stats show that both Fraser and anthropomorphized animals are catnip for the kiddies, and assaultive direct marketing to your tots likely means you won’t have a choice about taking them. In a gesture of “aw, shucks” gratitude, the producers populate the margins with semi-familiar comedians who can be had at bargain rates: Ken Jeong (The Hangover), Angela Kinsey (The Office), Toby Huss, Jim Norton, Patrice O’Neal, and Rob Riggle and Samantha Bee from The Daily Show (also Wallace Shawn, a far cry from My Dinner with Andre).
Not a one of them is able to wring a laugh out of the material, though Fraser will have kids in stitches as director Roger Kumble—best known for Cruel Intentions—showers his star in human and animal waste products. Cruel intentions, indeed. In the sort of brave performance that never gets its due at Oscar time, Fraser also lets his bulbous belly hang out as he scampers around in a towel, tighty-whities and, yes, nothing at all.
Oh, right. There is a plot: Fraser plays Dan Sanders, a supposed eco-developer who keeps getting talked into moral compromises by his co-workers and bosses. When he blows up a beaver dam in the interest of expediting his housing development in the Oregon timberland, the local raccoon takes notice and begins listening in on his business calls That’s right: the animals understand English, though they don’t speak it (whew!).
In short order, the woodland creatures make Dan’s life h-e-double-hockey-sticks, going after him when he’s alone and making him appear insane to his colleagues, his wife (Brooke Shields), and his teenage son (Matt Prokop of High School Musical 3). The critters infest a pic-a-nic basket intended for his boss, hotbox his SUV with skunk spray, and climactically cause mayhem at the annual Forest Festival, just in time to—well, I wouldn’t want to give anything away.
Full disclosure to the politically sensitive: the eco-friendly message of Furry Vengeance is brought to you by Participant Media, makers of Food, Inc. and The Cove. Next time, guys, give a hoot and don’t pollute the multiplex. Save the children.
[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]
Summit continues its innovation of releasing all-in-one combo discs with Furry Vengeance. One side of the disc is Blu-ray; the other is DVD. Obviously, the hi-def Blu-ray is preferable for image quality, which here is brightly colorful, clean and crisp. The highly detailed image is particularly adept at rendering the many outdoors sequences, where plenty of natural light lends itself to sharp photography. Audio comes in the form of a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that ably carries the dialogue with some nice immersive wilderness ambience; the music also sounds terrific.
The nice collection of bonus features begins with an audio commentary with director Roger Kumble, Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields. Kumble is an especially energetic host, but the three all seem comfortable with each other, and they keep up a peppy pace without taking the proceedings too seriously.
Four "Deleted Scenes" (6:11, HD) come with optional commentary.
"The Pitfalls of Pratfalls" (9:57, HD) is a making-of overview featuring behind-the-scenes footage and comments from Kumble, Fraser, Shields, Ken Jeong, producer Keith Goldberg, Angela Kinsey, choreographer Carl Alleyne, Matt Prokop, and Skyler Samuels.
"Working with Animals: A Profile of Ken Beggs" (8:42, HD) obviously focuses on the mammalian stunts. Participants include head trainer Beggs, Fraser, visual effects supervisor David Goldberg, Keith Goldberg, Kinsey, executive producer Ira Shuman and Shields.
Lastly, we get a "Gag Reel" (3:54, HD) that culminates in an amazing dance take from Jeong.
Families who can't get enough of Furry Vengeance will certainly appreciate this nicely put-together combo-pack special edition.
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer