There is no reason to pick on kids movies for being dumb, is there? Not unless they are unnecessarily idiotic. Sure, most movies made for the family audience dumb-down their humor in an effort to connect with post-toddler senses of humor. Much of that humor is crude and obvious, like a dancing raccoon or a wayward bit of flatulence. None of it is high concept, but it makes the kids laugh. Though I would contend that there is a point when silly, childish fair turns into something wasteful. That point is when a movie is released that seeks to get all of its laughs from one gag — played five times over — in which a human is sprayed by a skunk. We don’t need that much skunk piss in our movies. Which means that the world could do without films like Furry Vengeance.
It seems unnecessary to say that this is the worst movie of the year. But then again, this movie’s existence — as I’ve explained — is completely disposable, like its jokes. Brendan Fraser stars as a suit-wearing developer lackey who has uprooted his wife (Brooke Shields) and teenage son (Matt Prokop) from what we can only assume was a lavish life in downtown Chicago to live in a nondescript woodland town where his company is slashing away forest and erecting a soccer momian paradise. The only problem is that these woods ain’t going quietly into the night. Led by a comic bubble-talking raccoon, nature’s critters are fighting back. From Rube Goldberg devices to simple ole’ skunks clouding up the inside of the man’s hybrid, the woodland creatures make life hell for Mr. Developer. And all of this while he’s trying to stay on the good side of his publicly “Green,” privately insane boss (played by Ken Jeong).
I won’t bore you with the gritty details of this affair, as there are none. Thematically, this film fails on several levels. There is the lesson about being green and not being mean to animals, which comes off as subtle and smart as two grizzly bears playing chess. Not only does the story clunk its way to saying that we shouldn’t cut down forests (we shouldn’t, by the way), it does so in such a shallow manner that it loses all effect. Fraser’s character doesn’t really want to save the environment, he just wants the animals to leave him alone. His son doesn’t really care about Rocky Raccoon, he just wants to impress the down-home girl he meets at school. For a message-driven family comedy, it sure does muck up its theme with awful, self-centered characters.
But again, it’s not high concept work we’re talking about. It should at least be funny, right? It’s not. As I’ve mentioned, much of the humor is the type of obvious situational stuff that even execs at The Disney Channel would scoff at. As someone who has made audiences laugh in the past, Brendan Fraser should know better. Then again, his career choices continue to insist that he doesn’t. The humor is low — even for a movie with vindictive forest creatures that throw a dance party in the living room.
Which brings me to the last dagger to be plunged into the heart of this cinematic mess. The CGI. This film, which is distributed by Summit Entertainment and financed by Participant Media (again, not sure how the environmentally friendly message didn’t make it front and center), is perhaps the most cheaply made film to make it into theaters in years. The big animal living room dance party looks more like a screensaver from 1994 than a scene from a feature film, and that’s just the half of it. The creature effects are so poor that I successfully remade the movie using stuffed animals from my childhood, and it looks better. Hyperbole, this is not.
In the end, the problem with Furry Vengeance is that it has zero heart. The only lesson to be learned from this film is that if Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields had a child, that teenage would look like Justin Bieber. And at the end of their woodland adventure, that family would sing an ill-advised rendition of Cyprus Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane” in the vain of The Wiggles. I would urge parents, guardians, sane humans and anyone who has not been patient to a lobotomy to avoid this film at all costs. It’s a rare breed of cinema that could actually make you more dumber. See, it’s already working on me.
The Upside: I did not die of an brain aneurysm during the screening of this film.
The Downside: Bad special effects, humor so low it broke my low-brow meter and acting from Brendan Fraser that rivals the best work I’ve seen from a piece of wood that I keep in my garage (it’s just waiting for its big break).
On the Side: Steve Carell and Jeremy Piven were both attached to play the lead role at one point, only to move on and allow Fraser to step in. Piven would have been interesting in this role.