Furry Vengeance (Summit Entertainment, PG)

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The general premise would work better as a horror film than a family comedy.

 Hollywood’s pet cause for the past 30 years or so has been protecting the environment. From Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home to Avatar, Hollywood’s way of getting the message across to the masses can be conveyed as either fun, as the case with the latter, or oppressive, as the case with the former.

The latest enviro-themed film to come from Hollywood is Roger Kumble’s seldom funny family comedy Furry Vengeance. The film tries to be fun in its didacticism, having cute and cuddly forest critters stage this twisted morality tale, but instead comes across oppressive.

The film opens with real estate developer Riggs (Rob Wriggle) from Lyman Enterprises driving down a winding road, chomping on a cigar, hell-bent on turning the protected forests of Rocky Springs, Oregon, into suburban sprawl. The creatures of the forest, led by a raccoon, get wind of the impending destruction and set off an elaborate trap, resulting in knocking Riggs’ car of a cliff. Does he walk away with a few scratches and bruises or does he die? We never know but it’s somehow supposed to be funny. The forest creatures at this point now appear to be more evil and masochistic than cute and cuddly.

We are then introduced to real estate developer Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser), also from Lyman Enterprises, who relocated his family from Chicago to Rocky Springs to oversee the development of the town. His wife Tammy (Brooke Shields) finds work as a teacher and is chosen to run the town’s annual Forest Festival, while his son Tyler (Matt Procom) misses city life and is having trouble fitting in. Dan is under constant pressure from his boss, Neal Lyman (Ken Jing), who informs him they are going to turn the forest into a shopping mall, much to the dismay of his family. The critters get wind of the situation and set their sights on Dan, whom they perceive as Satan. They begin excessively tormenting him with violent assaults, mind games, and property damage, all in the name of protecting the forest’s destruction. They forget that humans are also fellow creatures of the earth.

Again, this is somehow supposed to be funny, but is mostly not. The general premise would work better as a horror film than a family comedy.

The message of the film is quite simple. Nature is great, humans are harbingers of its destruction, and said humans will receive nature’s wrath for their meddling. Of course everybody is for saving and preserving the environment, but the film’s preaching comes heavy-handed and becomes a victim of eco-hypocrisy. Whereas Avatar glorifies primitive civilization by raising the bar for special-effects and advancing camera technology, Furry Vengeance glorifies violent retaliation by nature against humanity by training live animals and leaving a great carbon footprint during production to tell the story. (Remember how Al Gore spent a good chunk of An Inconvenient Truth in a jet?)

The formulaic and predictable story, penned by Michael Carnes & Josh Gilbert (Mr. Woodcock), is brought to the screen by the uninspired mediocrity of Kumble (College Road Trip, Cruel Intentions). Fraser and Shields are charming but cannot save this confused mess.

The kids will surely be entertained by the mischievous creatures, numerous hits to the crotch, and toilet humor. But for the rest of us, Furry Vengeance is a dish best not served at all. | Justin Tucker

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