Brendan Fraser adds cuddly and hapless paternal figure to his repertoire in Furry Vengeance, a man vs. nature comedy that sees his real estate hotshot Dan Sanders get more than he bargains for when he parks his family in a forest town with a view to redeveloping the land for housing. The role requires plenty of commitment for the slapstick action sequences, and the fact that Fraser is miles away from being in tip-top George Of The Jungle/The Mummy shape only elicits a few more laughs as the woodland creatures begin to terrorise him.
As family comedies go, Vengeance is far from a classic, but there's enough silliness and giggle-worthy moments to keep it intermittently interesting. It takes an absolute age to get started - mainly to set up Dan's support: Brooke Shields as his wife, Matt Prokop as his son, Ken Jeoung as the eccentric boss - and only finds any kind of rhythm once the woodland creatures start to run riot.
A Machiavellian raccoon leads the insurgence, masterminding a series of accidents for Dan. Some of the elaborate booby traps might be sophisticated, but the humour itself is generally at crotch level (mainly Fraser's). The star has to endure a car full of trigger-happy skunks (twice), tumbles galore, hallucinogenic tea and running around in his underpants after losing them in an encounter with a snarling bear. As director Roger Kumble cycles between eco preaching and pratfalls, it all gets a little repetitive. There are a few very funny bits, though, like the sight of Fraser donning tight pink sweat gear (with "yum" stamped on each buttock) and dressing up as Rambo then getting pinned down and thumped in the face repeatedly by his raccoon nemesis.
Being a film about the environment, there's understandably plenty of imparted messages about community and rallying against urban sprawl. Kumble misses a trick with the Dan character, though, choosing to keep him relatively concerned about his carbon footprint (he drives a Hybrid). Making him a heartless corporate b**tard completely unmoved by his rural decimation might seem a bit much, but if handled properly it would have sent him on a more radical emotional journey. As it stands, Dan is essentially just a punch bag for the mischievous woodland creatures.
Know, understand and love your enemy seems to be an underlying theme, yet it's not explored with the kind of visual 'wow' factor as Avatar or How To Train Your Dragon. Outside of Dan's ordeals, there are extraneous plot threads that never carry much weight. There's the token teen romance between the moody Prokop and a schoolmate, a festival to be organised by Shields's teacher and visiting Indian businessmen looking into a multimillion dollar local investment - the latter two are present to grease the narrative wheels as they roll into the finale. Overall, it's all a bit rubbish, but if you like Brendan Fraser's big rubbery face then there's chuckles to be had.
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