Furry Vengeance (2010)

Crimes:

  • Using cheap-looking special effects to animate an army of animals, all out to make life hell for real-estate developer Brendan Fraser and thus prevent his bosses from destroying their forest
  • Filling 90 minutes with more animal-on-human slapstick violence than a year’s worth of Woody Woodpecker cartoons
  • Making sure audiences know that Fraser’s family enjoys their Wii, MacBook, Kindle, and iPhone
  • Wasting a supporting cast filled with the likes of Wallace Shawn, Rob Riggle, Angela Kinsey, and Toby Huss
  • Offering a shallow vision of environmentalism that amounts to “Animals are like angry little people, so don’t fuck with them”

Defender: Director Roger Kumble and stars Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields

Tone of commentary: Goofy, bordering on juvenile. Within the first five minutes, Shields spies a chipmunk nibbling a nut and says, “There’s Roger. Always eating. Always at the craft-service table,” while Fraser warns that he might be unusually quiet during the commentary because “I’m captivated by shiny, bright things.” For his part, Kumble alternates between tongue-in-cheek comments like “People say I direct broad. I don’t get it,” and self-deprecating comments like “This is where the studio stopped watching dailies.” Particularly fascinating, though, is the “I’m dumber” / “No I’m dumber” game Kumble and Fraser play throughout, as when Kumble says, “I read a dummy’s guide to directing, and they talked about foreshadowing,” while Fraser says, “Foreshadowing? I thought it was just introducing a doofus.” At least the Kumble/Fraser dynamic offers more than Fraser/Shields, who mainly repeat what each other say, like so:

Fraser: There was a sports beverage in that mug.

Shields: Sports beverage.

Fraser: A highly caffeinated sports beverage.

Shields: Highly caffeinated sports beverage.

What went wrong: Kumble and Fraser are very open about the cheapness of Furry Vengeance, pointing out the scenes where the animals attacking Fraser are actually puppets that Fraser himself is controlling (“You can see my hand!” Fraser squeals), and admitting that one scene with Fraser and a live turkey is the only time he worked with an animal in the same shot. (“We are basically doing Ed Wood,” Kumble says, unabashed.) But the real problems with the movie come out between the lines, when Kumble talks about all the different ways they shot scenes, and all the material they cut because it was pointless or “stupid.” “We shot this digitally, so there was no film, so I thought this was free,” Kumble explains. Or maybe the real insight into how this movie went off the rails comes during a bizarre moment when Fraser inexplicably starts laughing his head off at an ordinary plate of sandwiches. (“It’s a sandwich disaster!” he cackles.)

Comments on the cast: The participants direct most of their cast commentary at each other, as when Fraser asks whether a certain scene was from the first day of shooting, and Kumble replies that it must’ve been, because “I remember you locked yourself in the car and called your agents to try and get off the picture.” Shields, meanwhile, pays attention to herself, noting for example that she doesn’t look good in pleated A-line skirts. (Fraser is less particular; when he sees himself in a towel, he shouts, “Check out the gut on daddy!”)

Inevitable dash of pretension: Fraser and Kumble go out of their way to deflate any moments of pretension, often with a passive-aggressive edge. When Kumble praises An Inconvenient Truth producers Participant Media for getting behind another movie “with a message about the environment,” Fraser loudly snores. When Fraser says that the construction crew functions as a Greek chorus, Kumble hastens to note that this was Brendan’s idea, adding, “I hired some Greek guys who sang, and you said no. I didn’t study Shakespeare like you did.” And sometimes Kumble just needles Fraser randomly, as when he points out that what he’s doing with the story is “what they call plants and payoffs… You went to Princeton, so you know.”

Commentary in a nutshell: At one point in the movie, Fraser’s character sees a bird-shit-covered car, then has his pants soaked by an animal-sprung sprinkler. The commentary over this scene is practically a parody of the rest of the track:

Fraser: Poop. Poop-poop. On Dan’s car.

Kumble: Foreshadowing.

Fraser: Pee-pee pants.

Shields: I love pee-pee pants.

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