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Published: 1/10/2013

The Animal: Just another retread from the Sandler factory

BY CHRISTY LEMIRE
ASSOCIATED PRESS

There comes a time when a movie critic must throw down her pen and self-satisfied smirk and surrender to the juggernaut.

That time came during a screening of The Animal.

The theater was so packed, children sat in the aisles and couples lined the walls. As Rob Schneider growled and barked and whinnied and galloped - because he plays a guy who has had animal organs transplanted into his body, duh - enraptured audience members howled along with him, physically doubling over with laughter.

And that's when you know that no matter what you write, people will scurry to this movie in droves.

The Animal is the latest offering from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions. Sandler again serves as executive producer, as he did earlier this year on Joe Dirt and on 1999's Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.

There's no point in mentioning that the humor is raunchy. It would be noteworthy if the humor weren't raunchy.

The Animal is basically a recycled version of the other movies Sandler and his fellow Saturday Night Live alumni have stitched together.

It's a lot like Deuce Bigalow, which also starred Schneider and grossed more than $60 million. Instead of playing a gigolo who stumbles from one bizarre situation to the next, he plays a guy who undergoes surgery after a car accident and now has a body jammed with animal organs. Then he stumbles from one bizarre situation to the next.

It's also a lot like Joe Dirt, in which David Spade starred as a redneck who maintains his plucky demeanor despite being humiliated and abused at every turn.

Schneider's new character, Marvin Mange (Get it? Like a mangy dog?), is a police evidence file clerk who's a total loser. Dogs attack him, children throw food at him, and he's notorious for peeing in his pants at police academy tryouts. But he keeps hope alive because he wants to be a cop like his dad. How touching.

He becomes stronger and more confident after a mad scientist (Australian actor Michael Caton) experiments on him with the organ transplants. The usual gross-out hilarity ensues.

The only variable here is the big-screen debut of Colleen Haskell, the darling of the first season of Survivor. With her knockout looks and sunny disposition, Haskell made it to week 11 of the 13-week series before the tribe snuffed out her torch.

Here, as a volunteer at an animal shelter, her torch never gets fired up in the first place. She's cute but vacant. No matter what happens, she smiles that big, adorable smile that makes her eyes get all squinty. Worst of all, she has to kiss Schneider! Ewww.

There is one amusing moment, in which Marvin visits the animal shelter and brawls with an orangutan. It's funny because the orangutan has great personality and comic timing - Schneider just happens to be in the scene, too.

In a supporting role, Ed Asner is seriously slumming as a clueless police chief (it's embarrassing to watch). And Guy Torry, who performed on the hilarious "Kings of Comedy" tour, is stuck with a running joke that's not funny the first time about receiving special treatment because he's black.

The Animal is the first feature from director Luke Greenfield. The movie's production notes say that at age 16, Greenfield got a two-page handwritten letter from Steven Spielberg, praising his high school films and urging him to stick with filmmaking. Just a hunch, but this probably isn't what Spielberg had in mind.



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