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Slapstick makes ‘Vengeance’ barely watchable

POSTED: April 28, 2010 11:30 p.m.
Summit Entertainment/

Brendan Fraser is scared straight by a racoon in "Furry Vengeance."

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You know those horror stories you hear about people who went in for minor surgery but wake up to find the doctors mistakenly performed some radical procedure? Like a guy who goes in for a vasectomy but has his leg amputated?

That’s what it was like watching "Furry Vengeance." I went in expecting it to be lame but mostly painless. Little did I know I was going in for a lobotomy.

Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser) is a corporate lackey in charge of a real estate development project. He moved his wife Tammy (Brooke Shields) and teenage son Tyler (Matt Prokop) from Chicago to the Oregon wilderness, and they aren’t happy about it.

Even more upset about Dan’s project are the woodland creatures whose habitats are being destroyed by the development. See, Dan is an eco-hypocrite. His company markets itself as a green company, yet they level entire forests and replace them with subdivisions and golf courses. Dan hates being outside, yet blissfully sighs "Ah, nature" when he turns on an indoor waterfall sculpture.

Problem one with the movie: it beats this very narrow political statement to death. It takes about five minutes to understand the social message of the movie. Then we’re stuck in the theater for another 85 minutes while they run it into the ground.

The movie is clearly intended to capitalize on Earth Day the same way "Valentine’s Day" tried to cash in on that holiday earlier this year.

It’s called "Furry Vengeance" because the forest animals all work together to stop the project, directing all their schemes at Dan. He gets sprayed in the crotch with water when they tamper with his sprinkler system. A bird pecks on the window all night to keep him awake. He falls off the roof when he tries to chase away the bird. A bear chases him into a porta-John then pushes it down a hill.

Noticing a trend in the jokes? This movie quickly becomes just one predictable pratfall after another. It’s an endless string of "Brendan-fall-down-and-go-boom." Except when he is being squirted by a skunk. They use that joke five times.

Meanwhile, no one believes that the animals are out to get Dan. His family just thinks he’s crazy because they keep seeing the aftermath of the animal attacks but not the attacks themselves. The pic spends an hour — a solid hour mind you — making jokes about Dan’s family believing he is going insane, while Dan secretly battles the animals.

"Furry Vengeance" is reminiscent of the old made-for-TV Disney movies, where they drag out one joke for what seems like an eternity. Only Fraser is no Jerry Lewis or Don Knotts or even Jim Carrey, all of whom have improvised their way through mediocre material and turned it into something watchable, if not hilarious. Fraser clearly cannot do the same.

But hey, let’s not just pick on Fraser. Shields, Ken Jeong ("The Hangover"), Angela Kinsey ("The Office") and Samantha Bee ("The Daily Show") all signed on for this stinker, too.

Of course, the real harm was done when some producer at Summit Entertainment bought the script from Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert, the same guys who wrote "Mr. Woodcock."

Family movies have a long history of condescending to their audience, so the fact that "Furry Vengeance" talks down to kids and parents alike isn’t news. But this movie commits the cardinal sin of not trying. There isn’t a single attempt at something original, and even the recycled jokes are done with a complete lack of joy.

I expected to see something made for 3-year olds, but it seemed more like it was made by 3-year olds.

By the end, I wished I would have opted for the lobotomy.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.



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