NEW YORK (CNS) — It’s fairly obvious that the painfully flat comedy "Furry Vengeance" (Summit) — which sees a cohort of woodland creatures conspiring to halt an unwelcome new housing development — is intended to be a kid-friendly invitation to ecological sensitivity.
But director Roger Kumble’s frequently distasteful romp registers as more juvenile than sprightly, while the film’s underlying themes — which also include the priority of family life over career advancement — though honorable, are driven home far too ham-handedly.
The main target of the animals’ concerted wrath is Chicago-based construction supervisor Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser). At the bidding of his scheming boss Neal Lyman (Ken Jeong), Dan has moved to the wilds of Oregon — bringing along his unwillingly uprooted wife Tammy (Brooke Shields) and teen son Tyler (Matt Prokop) — to oversee the building of a subdivision he genuinely, though naively, believes will be environmentally responsible.
With their pristine habitat under siege, the local critters unleash a torrent of torments on Dan that range from repeated skunk attacks to an onslaught by the group’s raccoon ringleader during which the organizationally gifted varmint urinates in Dan’s mouth. So when Dan eventually seeks shelter from a rampaging bear in his workers’ Port-o-Potty, it’s not hard to guess what will happen next.
A subplot focusing on Tyler’s budding relationship with inconveniently green-conscious small-town girl Amber (Skyler Samuels) is remarkably restrained by current screen standards, since Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert’s script portrays the pair’s first kiss as a major undertaking, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly.
But the writing reverts to form as Dan emerges from a nearby swamp into which his anthropomorphized adversaries have succeeded in making him drive his SUV to announce to Tammy, Tyler and Amber that a leech has attached itself to his "no-no zone."
Patches of dialogue designed to make more serious points, charting Dan’s gradual conversion from materialist to naturalist and from careerist to caring father, also land with a resounding thud. Thus, when Dan explains to Tammy that he’s so focused on his work only because he wants to be able to give her and Tyler everything, she replies — all too predictably — "We don’t want everything; we just want you."
The film contains much scatological humor and some comic violence. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.