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Movie Review

Furry Vengeance

A ‘Furry’ woodland revolt

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By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / April 30, 2010

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In its cretinous fashion, “Furry Vengeance’’ is almost impressive. Here’s a pro-nature, anti-development family comedy that appears to be made by and for people who never leave the mall.

For a heartwarming eco-fable about woodland critters rebelling against mankind, “Vengeance’’ has the odor of court-ordered community service. The jokes never rise above the groin. The trees look plastic, the characters more so. The animals — oh dear god, the animals. Modified into “adorable’’ anthropomorphic behavior by bargain-basement computer animation, the various raccoons, skunks, possums, and squirrels come across as hideous midget cyborgs, furry corpses brought back to twitching life through the miracle of modern special effects.

But, hey, take the kids.

Actually, the most abused mammal in “Furry Vengeance’’ may be star Brendan Fraser, who plays Dan Sanders, a good-guy builder trying to carve a “green’’ housing development out of a pristine forest preserve. That’s right, he’s the hero. At the behest of his sleazy boss (comic actor Ken Jeong, going over the top into full-on racial self-parody; Gedde Watanabe, you can finally let your guard down), Dan has moved into one of his show houses with skeptical wife Tammy (yes, that Brooke Shields) and rebellious teen son Tyler (Matt Prokop).

He doesn’t know that the animals in this neck of the woods have been fighting off humans for centuries, taking the time-honored “Home Alone’’ approach of throwing heavy things at our testicles. The ringleader is a raccoon; his secret weapon is a bear. “Furry Vengeance’’ was shot locally (in Topsfield) and is set in the Pacific Northwest, but its sense of wilderness is as generic as freshly laid blacktop. One of Dan’s tormentors is a lovely pied crow, which last time I checked (just now, on Google) is native to Africa. But who expects a movie about the outdoors to get the species right? What are you, a nature geek?

Directed by Roger Kumble, who started with teen movies (“Cruel Intentions’’) and is working his way down the evolutionary ladder, “Furry Vengeance’’ will tickle very young children and others who persist in thinking of animals as little people in fur suits. It will appall everyone else, not because of the gaping disconnect between its message and its methods but because the movie’s simply, thunderingly unfunny. The hero gets gassed by skunks, stung by bees, assaulted by a South African condor (!), and even when the plot works up to a pitch of Tom-and-Jerry lunacy — when Dan appears before his construction crew wearing a bra the animals have somehow engineered him into — the frenzied editing and prefab music suck the laughs away.

There’s a much better comedy in this idea and probably a decent horror movie, too (“Furry Vengeance: Survival of the Fittest’’), but neither of them would star Fraser, who has ballooned alarmingly in recent years and who spends much of the film with his shirt off and his gut protruding. The man’s starting to resemble a human pork rind; any bigger and Macy’s will be calling. Yes, yes, it’s unfair to mock an actor’s body, but here Fraser’s flab seems symbolic of the movie as a whole. “Furry Vengeance’’ is a double quarter-pounder in a proudly recycled paper box: Chow down if you must, but with what it costs to take a family to the movies today, you might as well go camping.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.

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FURRY VENGEANCE Directed by: Roger Kumble

Written by: Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, Matt Prokop, Ken Jeong

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 92 minutes

Rated: PG (some rude humor, mild language, brief smoking)

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