By Stephanie Zacharek
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By The Invisible Woman
By I Used to Be Darker
I took the six-year-old who lives in my house to a sneak preview of Furry Vengeance. The boy's a savvy consumer of kids' popular culture — my greatest parenting triumph thus far. He knew from the myriad Disney Channel commercials (the movie stars Matt Prokop of High School Musical 3) that Furry V features computer-generated animals inflicting all manner of cruel wackiness upon humans, and so he asked, "Is it in 3D? Because every other kids' movie is." I told him no, and that if he'd seen the commercials he should know we'd be lucky it if was in focus. Ninety minutes later, we agreed that Furry Vengeance was B-A-D. Well, I decided this. He argued that it was actually quite hilarious.
The simple focus of the movie is this: people doing bad things to the planet, like building sprawling housing developments where they shouldn't — in this case, an unspoiled forest populated by pissed-off woodland creatures who've wrought generations' worth of pain upon would-be settlers. In fact, Furry Vengeance isn't really a movie at all; it's a message provided by the good people at Participant Media, who've brought you, among other entertainments, Food, Inc., The Cove and the forthcoming Climate of Change (a Tilda Swinton-narrated doc about ordinary folks' efforts worldwide to combat global warming). The film's website offers kids an activity guide and redirects them to the Endangered Species Coalition, the Wilderness Society, and Defenders of Wildlife. They all but print the lesson plan on biodegradable popcorn boxes.
In other words, Participant Media knows comedy!
Brendan Fraser plays Dan, a pudgy shnook who uprooted his family (including Brooke Shields, who has never looked comfortable playing funny) to the wild in order to tear it down at the behest of his boss. The boss, incidentally, is played by the increasingly ubiquitous Ken Jeong — who, when he's not saying things like "It's not about green; it's about the shades of gray" — will occasionally speak in high-pitched Japanese, thus rendering Furry Vengeance both eco-friendly and vaguely racist. (Also starring: Rob Riggle and Samantha Bee of The Daily Show.)
When the animals — chiefly, a raccoon and a squirrel — catch wind of the developers' plan to pave, baby, pave, they revolt. And, yes, this sounds exactly like a cross between the Eddie Murphy Doctor Dolittle movies (which were, oddly, more clever — though I can't and refuse to recall exactly how) and the animated Over the Hedge, in which the raccoon was voiced by Bruce Willis and Steve Carell played the squirrel who became addicted to humans' junk food and equally crap culture. The animals here don't talk; that's the movie's one saving grace. Their facial reactions and gestures are still computer-augmented, though, and during the climactic smackdown, most of the creatures are entirely CG. It's not a cartoon, but it almost is.
Fraser is put through the ringer; I've never felt sorrier for an actor. Clearly, he lost a bet to Participant founder Jeff Skoll. Then again, my kid was tickled by the sight of a dude with a huge belly being slathered in bird shit, skunk spray, gallons of tomato juice and Port-o-Let piss. Maybe not such a parenting triumph after all.
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