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Published: Friday, 4/30/2010

Movie review: Furry Vengeance *1/2


It's getting difficult to tell Brendan Fraser's hammy comedies apart. Asked to explain the difference between Monkey Bone, Bedazzled, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and his latest, Furry Vengeance, I might plead for my mummy.

Fraser has built a small, dorky industry by being an exceptionally smiley fellow. He is cheery, positive, and always gives himself fully to the movie at hand — which is more than can be said for many.

In Furry Vengeance, he plays a real estate developer, Dan Sanders, who has moved his family from Chicago to the Oregon woods, where he hopes to please his demanding boss (Ken Jeong) by overseeing a new suburban housing project. His wife (Brooke Shields) and his mopey teenage son (Matt Prokop) miss the city and regard Dan's obsessive loyalty to his boss increasingly skeptically.

As Dan supervises the Rocky Springs development, an uprising takes form. Their habitat threatened, the wilderness' animals seek to frighten off the intruders. Led by a raccoon, the tiny insurgents outwit and bedevil Dan until his sanity begins to slip.

It's a bit like if Alfred Hitchcock had made The Birds as a 5-year-old.

The cleverest thing about Furry Vengeance is that the company Dan works for touts itself as a “green company.” In truth, it's nothing of the sort. It happily explodes beaver dams and tramples through pristine forest to lay down pavement and a shopping mall.

Eventually, the forest animals are locked up in a Guantanamo Bay-like prison. Thankfully, the movie doesn't extend this metaphor.

Dan's own money-hungry boss curses the pseudo environmentalists who live green “only when convenient.” Dan, who drives an SUV hybrid, very much falls into that category. He barely survives before learning that it's not always easy to be eco-friendly.

The lesson is no coincidence: Furry Vengeance is produced by Participant Media, whose earlier films include the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove and Food Inc., neither of which is exactly shy about its respective message.

The animals here, thankfully, aren't talking cartoons, though they're close. The film uses a mixture of CGI and real-life, trained animals — which is surely a tad hypocritical, too, for a film about letting nature be. (After all, The Cove centers on Ric O'Barry, who became an activist after rebelling against the treatment of a dolphin for the TV show Flipper.)

No animals may have been hurt in this production, but Brendan Fraser was. That he bothers with films like this is dispiriting because of his talent, as evidenced by movies such as The Quiet American and Crash. Those films made use of his smiley demeanor for a superficial cover, not just vacant broad comedy.

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