One hates to sound cruel, but when a film’s main assets are a paunchy Brendan Fraser, a gurning Brooke Shields and an array of ‘spunky’ forest wildlife it hardly screams ‘must-see’. The promotional material for this cinematic thrill-ride into Hell brings to mind the myriad shitty comedies many of us had to watch as drooling, imbecilic children back in the ’90s, starring similarly washed-up entertainers (Flubber, Doctor Doolittle and the Look Who’s Talking franchise come to mind, despite the years of therapy aimed at the contrary).
In this sense, then, I am happy to report that Furry Vengeance does not disappoint in the slightest – it is every bit as bad as those films, and will cause you to leave the cinema feeling feverish and slightly violated.
The film’s plot sees rubber-faced protagonist Dan Sanders (Fraser) move his family right into the bear-ridden woods so as to allow him to oversee a real estate project masterminded by his eccentric boss (Ken Jeong, once again gleefully playing every possible permutation of racial stereotype and sexual deviation known to modern society). However, when the forest is suddenly in danger of being cleared, the overprotective band of native wildlife, led by a megalomaniacal raccoon, start to fight back and exact their [pause for effect] furry vengeance.
Indeed, the film very much resembles some hideous doppelgänger of Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge, seen from the human perspective. The plot very much boils down to a series of nightmarish vignettes more than anything else; awkward live-action adaptations of withered Tex Avery cartoons mostly involving Sanders being hit in the crotch and imparting a similar emotional reaction from the audience. Indeed, you may recall how many great films are boiled down in memory to key events and scenes; in this sense The Shining, for example, becomes the crawling unease of the opening shot, the hideous encounter in Room 237, “Here’s Johnny”, etcetera. Furry Vengeance, meanwhile, can be distilled to; Brendan Fraser falls down a cliff, Brendan Fraser wears women’s clothing, Brendan Fraser gets sprayed by a car-ful of skunks. And so on.
However, to give credit where it’s due, the fault for this cannot be placed solely on poor Brendan. Certainly, he proves a game lead; whooping and hollering around like the out-of-work George of the Jungle that he is and at least turning in something that resembles a degree of effort. Eyes wide and jaw slack (presumably with the prospect of a hot meal for the first time in months), he’s usually likeable, and sportingly riffs on the frankly terrifying decline of his physical form. Likewise, Ken Jeong seems at least to be enjoying himself mincing around the woodland and shouting obscenities, even if he is playing exactly the same character as he did in The Hangover and Role Models.
Brooke Shields, meanwhile, displays her trademark flair for making her character as forgettable as physically possible, coming across as a shrill, leviathan-eyebrowed bore who routinely dismisses her husband’s rapid mental breakdown to be nothing but immaterial hokum, despite the increasingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Nevertheless, though one might be able to criticise the endless flaws of the cast and script (particularly the last-minute lightweight Green Agenda bullshit the film ad libs towards the end), the point remains that this is supposed to be a goofy, fun kids’ film about a man getting attacked in the balls by rabid animals. No matter how zany Fraser’s timed reaction shots may be, this doesn’t excuse the fact that these comic antics barely raise a titter.
Likewise, the animals themselves simply aren’t especially endearing; whilst the film appears to want the viewer to appreciate their plight, they merely come across as buck-toothed sociopaths, killing wildly and indiscriminately anyone that so much as looks at them the wrong way.
Furry Vengeance is largely an uninspired attempt at family entertainment which refuses to not only try anything new but also to do anything particularly well. Fraser and Jeong squeeze out the odd chuckle, sometimes unintentionally, but are stuck with a lacklustre script and a supporting cast so uninteresting that they could’ve all been gorging on ketamine and I wouldn’t have noticed. If only I had such a privilege.
Lazy parents and bored students looking for an ironic trip to the cinema beware; Furry Vengeance is the cinematic equivalent of a sad, out-of-work clown – tired, depressing, and – crucially – unfunny.