April 29, 2010

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Furry Vengeance (PG)
Brendan Fraser is a determined developer who squares off with a forest-protecting raccoon in Furry Vengeance, an alleged comedy that has you wanting to curl up in the fetal position and protect your head.

The bricks of hackneyed comedy are steadily hurled at you, as though the movie were trying to stone you to death. Perhaps that’s the movie’s way of trying to push you out into the lobby, where you’ll be happily willing to trade $9 for a small bag of popcorn and a few moments of quiet.

Dan Sanders (Fraser) is a basically decent guy who believes in his company’s claim that it is a green developer and that it will only keep him and his unhappy Chicago-native family living in hicksville for a year. Turns out, however, boss Neal Lyman (Ken Jeong, or, as you may know him, Señor Chang) plans to completely wipe out the forest and require Dan, and therefore his wife Tammy (Brook Shields) and their son Tyler (Matt Prokop), to stay for many years to oversee it.

Oh, but the fiercely protective, forest-leading raccoon who sneaks on the airplane for the meeting where Lyman reveals his plans and overhears the news is having none of that. Because he understands English and guerilla warfare. And soon he, his poop-bomb wielding bird friends, his stink-bomb equip skunk friends and a big scary bear are all working together to get rid of Dan.

No, they don’t talk, but they do make squeaky woodland sounds of snarkiness and they have digitally enhanced waves and smiles. Oh, if only one could come through the screen, and use a wave of its little paw to sever one of my major arteries and facilitate my passing out.

Coming as it does at the end of vacation week for many in these parts, I can only shake my head in sorrow for the many sentient adults that will have to endure this movie after days of other, more wearying activities. It’s like coming to the end of a triathlon and then having to participate in a forced march, a forced march through skunks-in-a-car jokes. Repeated many times, just in case we don’t get the nuance.

Furry Vengeance is so aggressively bad it makes you think back on Ice Cube affairs like Are We There Yet? as classic family comedies. It’s as though at every turn someone asked, what is the dumbest, least interesting, most humorless choice we could make? And then did something even lamer. It’s not just that we’ve seen every joke here a hundred times before, it’s that they don’t even reuse it with any real care or style. Even the movie’s vague nod to an environmental theme seems half-baked. In the end, I spent less time trying to figure out what the movie was saying about development and more time trying to decide what was behind the movie’s weird approach to the Asian Jeong and the assorted, vaguely Latino construction workers. I’ll give the movie the benefit of the doubt and say it’s too stupid to be offensive.

Jeong and Fraser seem to want it to work, even if they give up after a while, but not even the natural affability that’s carried Fraser through previous half-baked family-adventure-comedies can keep him from sinking into the muck of our despair here. Meanwhile, Shields just seems confused, as though everyone forgot to tell her what her character’s purpose was.

Pick any child’s movie out currently and, even if you hate it and are watching it for the sixth time and find gum on your seat and a hair in your popcorn, you’ll still do better than a first viewing of Furry Vengeance. F

Rated PG for some rude humor, mild language and brief smoking. Directed by Roger Kumble and written by Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert, Furry Vengeance is an hour and 31 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Summit Entertainment. It opens in wide release on April 30.