One of those sad little movies upstaged by its own vastly superior trailer.
FURRY VENGEANCE is currently at a near-record level low of 7% approval on the Rotten Tomatoes meter, and its opening weekend at the box office could not even yield $7-million. This may seem puzzling to those who have viewed the trailer but not the movie, because the preview offers a tightly edited glimpse of amusing sight gags and a compressed version of the story that seems snappy, clever, and fun for the whole family. It is a testament to some brilliant editing that the trailer could make the film seem so promising; one wonders what improvements might have been wrought, had the trailer’s editors cut the feature-length version, because FURRY VENGEANCE turns out to be a terribly unfunny comedy that aggravates its weak script and lame execution by milking every moment as if each were a hysterical joy that must be extended to the fullest possible length. The result is sadly painful to endure.
The opening reel comes closest to fulfilling the promise of the trailer, with an elaborate sequence of animals triggering a goofy Rube Goldberg-type device involving pine-cones, tree trunks, and a very well-aimed boulder that takes out an evil developer planning to devastate the forest. Unfortunately, once the action shifts to the victim’s successor, Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser), this sort of clever visual gag takes a back seat to more conventional slapstick.
You see, the film is less about the “furry vengeance” of the title than it is about Sanders’ reactions to that vengeance. Much of the alleged comedy derives from his increasingly hysterical actions, which make him appear crazy to his wife (Brooke Shields) and son (Matt Prokop), who never see any evidence of unusual animal activity. Yes, believe it or not, the film wastes time on a worn-out “I’m not crazy” scenario, in which the animals target only the middle management character – not the boss behind the operation or, more logically, the workers actually dynamiting beaver dams and leveling the forest. (Apparently, these animals are smart, but not that smart.)
After opening strong, the animal action degrades quickly, going from cute to painful and ultimately to vulgar. The latter might have worked had Sanders (like his predecessor) been a more vile character, deserving of the punishment meted out to him; instead it becomes merely unpleasant. Apparently unaware that the gags have worn out their welcome, the film repeats several of them, as if they were so funny the first time that we were just dying to see them again. (FURRY VENGEANCE shares this characteristic with director Roger Gumbles previous THE SWEETEST THING, which promised to be an amusing MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING but turned out be be a crass THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY knock-off.)
Initially, the combination of live animals and computer-generated imagery is effective, but the filmmakers cannot resist the urge to use digital effects to anthropomorphize the critters, pushing their behavior from funny to silly. Along the way, the quality of the effects degrades, becoming increasingly obvious. In the context of a cartoony comedy, the exaggerated facial expressions might be acceptable, but the obviously CGI birds are not
Fraser (who shares a producer credit and presumably some of the blame for the film) is a talented actor, and in the past he has proven himself adept at working with special effects (LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION), but he is not the sort of gifted physical comedian who can generate laughs by stumbling around like a lunatic, falling off buildings and wrestling with animals. Shields shows little or no comic ability. Even the talented Wallace Shawn, who shows up in a brief bit as a psychiatrist, is defeated by the material. At least Prokop gets a few minor giggles as their sullen son.
All of this is wrapped up in an eco-friendly message that, whatever its intent, feels resoundingly insincere, rather like the film’s evil executive Neal Lyman (Ken Jeong), who claims to be running a green company while actually planning to level the forest. The ham-handed family-values message is equally leaden (Sanders has a third-act change of heart when he sees that the animals’ leader, a raccoon, is defending its family – as if he couldn’t have figured that out before). In short, this film is a lot more pretentious – and far less funny – than 1972’s FROGS, which also depicted nature avenging itself against humanity. (At least that exploitation-horror film had the good sense not to redeem its trashiness with an allegedly uplifting message.)
FURRY VENGEANCE’s features one memorable accomplishment: it may be the worst movie ever that you are not overjoyed to see end – because, as bad as the rest film is, the closing credits are even worse, thanks to an ultra-lame music video that plays beneath the credits roll. We may understand why the forest animals inflicted their furry vengeance upon Sanders. Can anyone explain why the filmmakers would inflict this pain and suffering on the audience?
FURRY VENGEANCE (April 30, 2010). Directed by Roger Gumble. Written by Michael Carnes & Josh Gilbert. Cast: Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, Matt Prokop, Angela Kinsy, Rob Riggle, Skyler Samuels, Ken Jeong, Jim Norton, Patrice O’Neal, Toby Huss, Wallace Shawn, Dee Bradley Baker (animal vocal effects).