Film review by: Witney Seibold
I watched this film with a friend. He kept a tally of the various traumas suffered by the film’s protagonist. I don’t recall the exact counts, but there were several instances each of a) crotch injury, b) skunk spray, c) jokes involving urine or fecal matter, d) severe concussive head damage, and e) instances where the protagonist, even with evidence, was not believed by another human being that woodland mammals and other fauna were intentionally causing him harm. I realize I’m not the first critic to make this observation, but cartoon violence mainly works because it’s happening to cartoon characters; when The Coyote falls off a cliff, it’s hilarious; When a real-life actor is beaned with an anvil, most people immediately think of the bodily injury suffered, and not the comedy.
The only people who could really support a film like “Furry Vengeance” (not “justice,” mind you, but “vengeance”) are really, really little kids. Director Roger Kumble (“Cruel Intentions,” “College Road Trip”) has made a film that is, of course, littered with the requisite butt-‘n’-balls jokes, but also is possessed of a confusingly oversimplistic moral stance which only alternates with an inappropriately mature pro-environmental stance; the hero starts out as a bad guy, but the script is careful to position him in just such a way that he will be able to redeem himself. This is an expressionist version of the real world, in which complex dilemmas are presented as easy-to-understand, kid versions of their horrible selves.
Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser) works for a rich, indifferent building developer named Neal Lyman (Ken Jeong). He has been hired to relocate to a posh home in the woods, much to the chagrin of his wincing wife (Brooke Shields), and character-free son (Matt Prokop). His job is to clear-cut the local woods to make way for an eyesore suburban development. He feels this is all fine and good, as he has believed his boss’ indoctrination that his company is a Green company. Well, he has a moment of doubt, but continues with the clear-cutting.
He asks his workers to dynamite a beaver’s dam, which is the only real direct damage he does. The local animals, led by a feisty raccoon (whom I will name Gilgamesh), begin to gang up on Dan, and begin abusing him in variously damaging ways. A crow pecks his window, keeping him up all night. A ferret builds a Rube Goldberg-like device to crush his car with a boulder. A squirrel sprays water on his crotch. A cadre of skunks (whom I will call The Minions of King Henry VII) sneak into his SUV and spray him. An otter drives a car. Never mind that there are no oceans near here. In a strangely appealing scene, Gilgamesh and his ferret friend manage to hijack Dan’s car and wreck it in the background, while Dan talks to a shrink (Wallace Shawn) in the foreground. Things get most dangerous when a grizzly bear (whom I will call St. Timothy) gets involved.
Dan even begins having nightmares about the animals, and we’re treated to a hallucinatory scene in which rabbits dance, a porcupine wears sunglasses and works a DJ table, and Gilgamesh stands on Dan’s chest, and breathes smoke into his face. Yes, that moment is like something out a Takashi Miike film.
Dan gets stung by bees, and his eyes puff shut, making him look like a cenobite from “Hellraiser.” The animals manage to hide all his clothes while he’s in the bath, forcing him to wear one of his wife’s pink track suits. Dan insistently presses onward with his clear-cutting plan, even though The Minions of King Henry VII are making regular appearances in his life.
Eventually, Dan must hire a crazed gun nut (Toby Huss, how perfect is that?) to tranquilize and cage all the local wildlife, so Dan can throw a decidedly environmentally unsafe street fair. The film is careful not to kill any animals. Dan has a last minute conversion, however, and sets the animals free. There’s then a big showdown where the film’s real bad guy is coated in bird feces. I’m trying to recall the last time I thought bird crap was funny.
I did like that the film, mostly, used real animals and only used CGI in some of the larger scenes.
Even though Dan suffers the trials of Job in this film, he’s not the real villain. All it takes is a simple apology, and all is forgiven. What? Gilgamesh and his animal army were clearly inflicting serious injury to this man. It seems to me that this abuse extended beyond “Home Alone”-level prankstering, and began to creepy unsettlingly toward horrific death. Indeed, “Furry Vengeance” was only few scary music cues, a bucket of blood, and a more violent climax away from being a legit horror film like “Day of the Animals,” “Night of the Lepus,” or “Long Weekend.” And this is what Gilgamesh does to the middle man? I kept hoping for some great reveal, like that Gilgamesh is actually a genetically enhanced lab animal like the rats of NIMH, and has a huge plan to destroy not just the life of a middling building developer, but also the entirety of human civilization.
But, no such luck. This is an unduly friendly, obnoxiously bright, bland, and uninteresting “family” comedy with bad violence, and only a few legitimately funny moments to keep you sane. But then, I think you knew that going in. We all know the rules: don’t see films with animals wearing sunglasses on the poster or in the preview. Don’t see films with CGI enhanced animals. Especially don’t see film with psychic raccoons who communicate in visible thought bubbles. Even if they’re names Gilgamesh.
The credits feature a brain-melting Disnified version of Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain”by The Transcenders lip-synched by the cast in various funny outfits. Surprisingly, this part of the film is oddly entertaining. You’re brain has reached a state of acceptance at this point. Just go with it. And ignore that the “cap yo ass like a looter in a riot” lyric has been changed.