Friday, April 30, 2010

HAIR FORCE

There are plenty of fans of the Western movie who really don’t care all that much about the star, or the supporting players, or the story. They care even less about complex characterization, or allegorical social commentary, or the mythic underpinnings of the genre. They just like the horses. A Western, for them, is good or not based on how many horses we get to see, & how good a look we get at them.

Similarly, there are plenty of people, including but not limited to children, who love cute, fuzzy little animals. I’m one of them, & it is at us, presumably, that Furry Vengeance is aimed.



The makers are hoping that, because it’s packed with raccoons, skunks, squirrels, magpies & other adorable woodland fauna, we won’t mind that it’s an embarrassingly terrible movie.

Directed by Roger Kumble, Furry Vengeance stars Brendan Fraser as a developer who drags his wife (Brooke Shields) & son (Matt Prokop) from Chicago to a model home in a lovely forest area that his boss (Ken Jeong) wants to turn into a subdivision. When a highly intelligent & resourceful raccoon gets wind of this plan, he enlists an army of fellow furred & feathered pals to wage war on the poor fellow & make his life a slapstick hell.

I’ve always sort of envied Brendan Fraser. Big & hunky without machismo & with an endearing self-deprecation, he’s had some critical triumphs, among them Gods and Monsters & Crash & three of the very best episodes of Scrubs, but most of his career has been devoted simply to unpretentious fun, like the Mummy movies & Encino Man & George of the Jungle & Dudley Do-Right & Looney Tunes: Back in Action. These aren’t classics, but they look like they would have been a blast to make.

Watching Fraser in Furry Vengeance, now more beefy than hunky, gamely mugging & babbling & pratfalling as he’s repeatedly humiliated by his fuzzy costars, I found it harder to envy him. The same goes for his costars. Shields, Jeong, Angela Kinsey, Wallace Shawn, Toby Huss & Gerry Bednob are all capable of first-rate goofiness, but this material reduces them to infantile flailing about. Sad to say, the handsome, thoughtful-looking raccoon out-acts all of them.



I’m not suggesting that you should see Furry Vengeance on this basis, but the animals are charming, except when CGI animation is used to manipulate their facial expressions. Not content to reduce the human actors to pulling silly faces, the movie does the same to the little critters. Sadly, the Humane Society doesn’t seem to regard this as cruelty.

In fairness, I must admit that I chuckled a time or two at the film, & the audience with whom I saw it laughed even more. I suppose I should also note that I’m thoroughly in sympathy with the concept. Against rampant development, I’d love to see a little four-legged insurgency.

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