Tragically, “Furry Vengeance” is not a movie in which people who derive sexual pleasure from dressing up as animals execute deadly revenge on their oppressors. I think we can all agree that such a movie would have been fantastic, or at least disturbing. Instead, “Furry Vengeance” is a movie about a squad of super-intelligent forest animals that conduct a war against Brendan Fraser, focusing primarily on his sanity and genitals. It is a family movie, obviously.
Here is a comedy so painfully stupid that one assumes it is only by accident that it doesn’t star Martin Lawrence. The premise is that some greedy land developers (there is no other kind of land developer in movies) plan to turn a forest into a suburb, and the woodland creatures band together to stop it like the filthy socialists they are. Though this sounds like the plot description of a cartoon, and though the movie obviously wishes it were a cartoon, “Furry Vengeance” is live-action, with real animals, and real actors, and Brooke Shields. The animals have CGI facial expressions, though, to remind everyone that the movie is really bummed about not being a cartoon. It’s like when a man gives his daughter a boy’s name because he really wanted a son.
Anyway, the tone is set in the opening scene. Rob Riggle drives down a picturesque road through a wooded area and says, apropos of nothing, “I do as I please!” Then he has a phone conversation with his boss about how easy it will be to turn all this land into a housing development, and then he throws his cigar out the window — after saying, “Give a hoot, don’t pollute? Whatever!” Having established this complicated, nuanced character, the movie gives him his comeuppance by having a raccoon give the signal to a mink to activate an elaborate system of pulleys and counterweights that sends a boulder rolling onto the road, knocking the man’s car into a ravine.
You may have noticed that the preceding paragraph is filled with utter nonsense. And yet everything happens just as I said it does. The woodland creatures have built an impressive defense system, and they await the command of their leader, a raccoon, to deploy it. You might worry that animals capable of such destruction would be dangerous, but you can relax, because nobody lifts a paw until the raccoon says so. There are checks and balances. These are real animals, remember. Real animals that understand human speech and are capable of executing complex strategies.
That’s more than can be said for the movie’s hero, Dan Sanders, a wide-eyed doofus played by wide-eyed doofus Brendan Fraser. Dan works for Lyman Enterprises, the company that’s developing Rocky Springs, and has moved here with his wife, Tammy (Brooke Shields), and teenage son, Tyler (Matt Prokop), to live in the model home while he supervises construction of the other houses. Dan believes that Lyman Enterprises is only going to build about a dozen houses and leave the rest of the forest untouched. In fact, however, his evil boss, Neal Lyman, intends to level every tree in the region and cover the land in tract homes and shopping malls, out of evilness.
Lyman, incidentally, is played by Ken Jeong. Remember when you’d occasionally see a movie that didn’t have Ken Jeong in it? Those were simpler times.
The raccoon learns about Lyman’s dastardly plans the same time Dan does, because the raccoon stowed away in Dan’s car when he drove to his meeting with Lyman. The raccoon could probably be a character on The Wire. The raccoon returns to the forest to alert the other animals, who all bow in obeisance to him, the mighty raccoon, and they commence Operation: Torment & Humiliate Dan Sanders.
It starts out simple but quickly escalates. The raccoon repositions Dan’s lawn sprinkler so that when he turns it on it sprays him right in the crotch. (The animals are obsessed with Dan’s crotch. They can’t get enough of it!) Other small animals startle him and make him spill his coffee in his lap. A crow taps on his bedroom window while he’s trying to sleep, leading him to chase the bird out onto the roof, whereupon he slips and cracks his nards on the ridge, then falls off the roof. They mess with his treadmill and make him crash. They put an acorn in his breakfast cereal. Skunks hide in his car and spray him simultaneously, turning the vehicle into a mobilized gas chamber. I wish to note, by the way, that Dan gets sprayed by skunks in this manner not once, not twice, but three times over the course of the film. Having the skunks spray their target in a confined space is the animal kingdom’s version of sending in the Navy SEALs. It’s predictable, but it never fails.
You’d think a movie centered on the deliberate and systematic torture of Brendan Fraser would be fun. But no, he ruins it by being very easily exasperated and by screaming a lot in a high-pitched voice. There’s no “slow burn,” no gradual frustration, no increasing levels of comical annoyance. The animals do something, he is immediately at wit’s end, and he shrieks. Someone should make a YouTube compilation of all the times Brendan Fraser screams in this movie. It would be 72 minutes long and would be removed from YouTube for violating the Geneva Convention.
When Dan tells Tammy and Tyler that the animals are out to get him, they assume that he is insane, as it is not rational to think that the birds and mammals of the forest are collaborating to destroy you, even though that is, in fact, what they are doing. It must be frustrating for Dan to be in this situation — it must be frustrating for someone as stupid as Dan to be in any situation, really — but it’s his own fault. It’s not like the animals are being subtle, pulling pranks that could be ascribed to accident or coincidence. At one point they hot-wire his car and start to drive away in it, the raccoon steering while the others operate the pedals. Dan sees it happening. All he has to do is say to the person with whom he is conversing, “Say, could you turn around and look out that window? If you do, you’ll see that my car is being driven by a raccoon, a mink, and a skunk.” Instead, he just does that “homina homina homina” thing that Costello would do when he saw a ghost standing behind Abbott. Well, you’ve made your choice, Dan. You can do comedy routines, or you can prove that you’re not insane, but you can’t do both.
Then there is the time Dan goes outside in the middle of the night to investigate a noise and is startled by a bear. Yes, the bears are involved! This goes all the way to the top, people. Instead of running back into the house, Dan runs into the construction site’s porta-potty, which the bear knocks over and jumps on. (“Nobody s***s in the woods except me!” is what I imagine the bear saying.) Next morning, Tammy and the construction workers find the outhouse lodged in the upper branches of a tree, Dan still trapped inside. The movie makes no attempt to explain how the porta-potty got up there, nor do the characters ask Dan what happened. But the most baffling question is how a movie like this made it almost an HOUR before covering the main character in poop. That is generally an Act 1 scenario.
Tyler, the teenage son, finally stumbles across some local folklore suggesting that every time humans have tried to develop these woods throughout history, they have been thwarted. Tyler suggests that perhaps that is what’s happening here. Dan scoffs. It’s rational to believe that the animals are out to get him, but the idea that they have a specific reason for it — well, that’s just silly. Nonetheless, he comes to accept that perhaps his efforts to destroy the animals’ habitat MAY HAVE BEEN A FACTOR in those animals being upset with him.
Obviously, the only recourse now is to capture all the animals and relocate them. Every creature in the forest is rounded up and caged (with no food or water, by the way), and the crates are stacked in a clearing to await transport. No one questions the wisdom, legality, or feasibility of catching every single animal in the vast forest, but it is accomplished anyway, and rather quickly. When Dan stumbles upon the terrible sight of woodland creatures sitting forlornly in wooden crates, stacked up like the artifacts at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, then — and only then — does it occur to him that leveling the entire forest might have a negative effect. He frees the animals from their cages and joins forces with them, presumably swearing allegiance to the raccoon just like everyone else.
Since Dan is a huge dolt, he didn’t have his big epiphany until the very last minute, when it’s almost too late. Evil Lyman and the company are sponsoring a Forest Festival for the local community (which is evidently populated by people gullible enough to believe that a development corporation has the forest’s best interests at heart), and the highlight of this event will be when a wealthy investor from India signs the contract to fund the project. As you know, when people go to a festival, they enjoy the carnival games and the pony rides and the face-painting booths, but what they really look forward to is seeing a foreign man write his name on a piece of paper. Luckily, change-of-heart Dan and his wife and son use a bullhorn to tell everyone what’s really going on, and the animals rampage through the festival spraying everybody and pooping on things, and Lyman’s nefarious scheme is thwarted. Dan becomes a forest ranger after that and establishes a truce with the raccoon, which is for his own good, since the raccoon is smarter than he is.