- Directed by Roger Kumble
- Written by Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert
- Starring Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields
- Classification: G
For some reason, movies involving CGI-enhanced animals, slapstick humour and excretion jokes often fail to win over film reviewers, so it's a reasonable bet that the critical reception to Furry Vengeance, a live-action comedy about insurgent forest animals, will fall between Another Mediocre Family Comedy and Worst Brendan Fraser Comedy Ever.
Still, the appeal of this kind of film to audiences between 4 and 8 shouldn't be underestimated. As we have learned in innumerable movies - from Home Alone to Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Squeakquel - children deeply enjoy watching grown-ups getting smacked, tripped and splattered with various kinds of slop. When the humiliation is carried out by small furry animals, the effect is only enhanced.
More importantly, even if you're not looking forward to seeing Brendan Fraser have a raccoon urinate on his face, get trapped in a car filled with skunks or run about in a women's exercise suit with his belly hanging out, Furry Vengeance is a movie with a worthy message. This is the first children's film that involves Participant Media, a production company founded by Canadian-born billionaire and former eBay president Jeff Skoll that contributes to films aimed at social change. Its roster includes An Inconvenient Truth, Goodnight and Good Luck, The Cove and The Soloist. In this case, the message is to avoid building subdivisions in forest areas (any children who were thinking of doing so should reconsider).
Fraser plays real-estate developer Dan Sanders, a dad who thinks he knows best, even as his wife (Brooke Shields), a high-school science teacher, and his teen-aged son (Matt Prokop) roll their eyes, make sardonic cracks and wait for him to come to his senses.
The Sanders are the first residents of a new subdivision carved out of the Oregon forest. Dan's company hides behind the green developer label, while using sleazy lobbying tactics to despoil the forest. His boss is played by The Hangover's Ken Jeong, in his latest mentally unstable Asian guy role, and his boss's boss is an East Indian, so the movie can't be accused of being too politically correct.
As we learn in the pre-credits sequence, Dan and his company are up against a wily and ruthless opponent, a raccoon that inhabits the Oregon forest. The animal - a sort of woodsy Osama Bin Varmint - gets a lot of screen time, walks upright, squeaks and twitters, plans improvised roadside attacks and organizes the forest birds and animals with a stump speech that uses picture bubbles formed from his head to inspire them.
Fraser, either through devotion to his craft or his executive producing credit, proves willing to endure any kind of humiliation for a laugh. On the other hand, Brooke Shields, as his wife, seems ill at ease (those famous caterpillar eyebrows suggest she may be allied with the enemy camp).
As with Avatar, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, there's a sense that the script (by Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert) taps into motifs drawn from current American military conflicts. There's the obvious contrast between the high-tech human invaders and the ruthlessly resourceful insurgency, but more specifically, wait for the scene when all the forest animals are imprisoned in a forest-glade version of Guantanamo Bay, at which point even Dan realizes things may have gone too far.
The paradox here is that the message of respect for animal life is outweighed by the lack of respect for human beings. Along with the save-the-animals message, wouldn't it be feasible to include some socially constructive messages such as: "It makes Daddy cry when he gets hit in the crotch," or "Use your words, not urine."