Aug 282010
 

When Furry Vengeance received its theatrical release earlier this year it debuted in fifth place at the Box Office, was universally panned by everyone, and failed to recoup its $35 million dollar budget, but now that the dust has settled, and Furry Vengeance is soon to be released on Blu-ray and DVD, we examine the film, and the Blu-ray disc, to see if it really is that bad.

After opening with a sketch showing the ingenuity that the local forest dwelling animals use to remove a local developer/litterer from their community (using a Mouse-trap style contraption of falling rocks that smash his car off a car), we are introduced to Dan Sanders (Brendan Fraser, the Mummy); the newest land developer in the small forest town of Rocky Springs.

Dan has recently moved his family away from their busy lives in Chicago to the tiny, and lifeless by comparison, town of Rocky Springs (something that neither his wife or son are too pleased about), in order to develop several houses for the ‘green’ company for which he works; a company headed by a number crunching official named Neal Lyman (Ken Jeong, The Hangover) who’s more concerned with meeting targets and making a profit than caring for the environment, but attempts to uphold a ‘green’ image as it’s supposedly good for business.

Lyman then tells Dan that the best way for business to succeed is to not stop at the few houses he is building, but to demolish the entire forest, and replaced it with a forest themed shopping mall; something that some of the locals (and specifically the animal population of the forest) are starkly opposed to.

Not completely agreeing that it is the right thing to do, Dan nevertheless agrees to press forward with the development plans; as he is not only terrified of his employer, but offered double his salary to do so; but unbeknownst to Dan, when he takes the deal to begin  development, he is overheard by a proactive raccoon, who’s doesn’t want to see his home destroyed, and doesn’t plan on giving up without a fight.

That’s why (for what is probably about the next 83 minutes of the film’s 87 minute runtime) the raccoon leads a number of forest creatures (from squirrels and skunks, to beavers, bears, and birds) to concoct various ways to humiliate and torture Dan; including stealing his clothes, keeping him up all night by pecking at his bedroom window, messing with the electrics in his car, and getting a gang of skunks to hide in his car and spray him while he’s driving); as a means of getting revenge on him, and forcing him to stop the development.

That’s also about as far as the plot for Furry Vengeance goes, and the entirety of its runtime is spent simply watching various animals have a crack at humiliating Dan in new ways (or sometimes just repeating tricks that have been seen a couple of minutes earlier), and listening to various characters preach about the environmental effects of what he’s planning to do; because at its heart Furry Vengeance is a message movie, but the message is repeated here so many times, and using the exact same phrases, that it becomes very grating, very quickly.

The animals themselves are a mixture of CG, and real animals, and generally look pretty good; as even though some things are obviously CG (such as animals screaming), the shots generally look rather convincing, and make the whole experience more believable, as do the fact that the animals in this movie don’t speak (they actually communicate using natural animal noises, that are expressed to the audience with the use of visual thought-bubbles); but that’s not to say that this film is in anyway realistic; as it’s one of the least believable film’s ever made, and actually makes Home Alone look like an episode of The Wire.

Brendan Fraser really overacts the role of Dan (but Furry Vengeance does call for an over-the-top portrayal of every character), and fits into it nicely; returning to the over-the-top, child friendly, roles that saw him rise to fame, after his recent attempt at drama in Extraordinary Measures; and Ken Jeong’s Lyman is very similar to his character to in The Hangover, and brilliantly suited to the movie.

Every other character is also suited to the film, but cliched and often annoying; Dan’s wife Tammy (Brooke Shields, The Blue Lagoon), his son Tyler (Matt Prokop, High School Musical 3: Senior Year), and security guard Wilson (Toby Huss, Carnivale), all fitting that bill; as many characters in children’s films can be.

In the end, Furry Vengeance is like many early-to-mid 90’s kids movies, that contain one or two moments that will make the grown-ups laugh, and 86 minutes worth of cheap, unfunny slapstick, designed to grasp the attention of the crucial 3-to-10-year-old crowd, and make them giggle; something which it succeeds in doing, but will be forgotten almost as soon as the credits roll, because there’s no emotion, preachy overtones, and poor jokes, and as a result it fails to resonate on the same level as classics like Toy Story; meaning that watching Furry Vengeance is an easy way to keep an under-ten quiet for an hour and a half, but is far from the funny and engaging family comedy is could have been.

Picture:

Furry’s 1080p transfer is also a little hit and miss, as while the over all level of detail isn’t bad, the colours and contrast are excellent, and the black levels are generally pretty strong, but it’s overly soft, and warm to the point at which skin-tones can sometimes look overly red, and rather unnatural.

As far as print errors go, there’s little to complain about, aside from a thin layer of grain which pops up in a couple of scenes; and while it never proves too distracting, is still a noticeable inconsistency with the generally clean print; and a negligibly small amount of pixelation that can be observed on only a handful of occasions.

Overall, despite its problems, Furry Vengeance has a pretty solid Blu-ray transfer, that does little to disappoint, and could still get a whole lot worse before alienating the crucial 3-10-year-old crowd that will be its main audience; as they’re not exactly the most image conscious viewers around.

Audio:

On the audio front however, there’s even less to complain about, as Furry’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundmix does a brilliant job of engaging and astounding listeners right from the off; with excellent sounding music, consistently clear, well leveled, and precise, dialogue that never once drops out, and an appropriate level of rumbling bass to accompany the action.

The rear speakers are also put to good use, and can be heard very often, for a number of different reasons, with plenty of ambient noise, and quite a few decent and encompassing effects in the larger scale scenes, with solid placement, some acceptable pans, and accurate directionality.

Overall it’s pretty hard to fault the soundtrack for Furry Vengeance, as whilst it may not be the most bombastic mix you’ve ever heard, it does the job well; accurately presenting the full range of sounds that the movie wishes to convey, with no leveling problems, no drop-out, and no sense of questionable placement; and as such, despite not having a true wow-factor, Furry’s audio does its best to draw the audience into the film by being engaging, and providing an thorough sound-field that’s much more than satisfactory, and actually better than the film itself warrants.

Extras:

Furry Vengeance arrives on Blu-ray with a handful of bonus material that includes an audio commentary featuring Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, and director Roger Kumble (Cruel Intentions); that is not only difficult to listen to, but downright awful, as it consists of listening to the three participants giggle at the film’s unfunny jokes, and at each other, and praise each others work, and their ‘success’, on the picture for its entirety, with little in the way of actual information being given; a gag reel; which is fairly standard fare that fans of the film will undoubtedly enjoy; and a small collection of deleted scenes (coming with optional commentary) that are no worse than those actually included in the film, but still not really worth the time it takes view.

There’s also two featurettes, one entitled The Pitfalls of Pratfalls; which is essentially a making of feature that covers the film’s slapstick nature, and how the various jokes were approached, as well as dance choreography, and some praise-heavy interview with the cast and crew; and the second called Working with Animals: A Profile of Ken Beggs; exploring the various duties of the movie’s head trainer, Ken Beggs, and he assembled the film’s animal army.

A fairly basic, yet satisfactory, collection of special features; that manages to provide a few little nuggets of production information amongst the self-praise and tedious fluff; and a selection that just about does enough to satisfy anyone who would want to explore the film any further (although adding an audio commentary on a film that is clearly so juvenile, and unlikely to gain many adult fans, is a rather strange inclusion, as there aren’t too many children that would sit through an entire commentary).

The Bottom Line:

The bottom line is that Furry Vengeance is a basic, no frills, children’s film; a film that would probably have done quite well had it been released in the same era as the Ernest movies, or Daniel Stern’s Bushwhacked (but still not quite as well loved; and who’s honestly thought about those movies recently?), but as it stands Furry Vengeance lacks the quality and charms that make more modern children’s films a truly family affair; being nowhere near as endearing or heartfelt as Toy Story 3, and simply being peppered with and endless supply of unfunny jokes that serve to elongate the films microscopic plot.

The Blu-ray itself holds up quite well; having solid picture and audio quality, and a selection of extras that are as good as one could really hope for given the subject material (but still paling in comparison to superbly layered special features like those included on Michael Jackson’s This Is It); and is only really let down by the film it contains, as it fails to really grab hold of its audience, doesn’t give adults a single reason to keep watching, and actually seems stretched, despite only lasting an hour and a half.

But despite its flaws, Furry Vengeance is a kids film for kids; it might not entertain adults, or have a lasting effect like Toy Story, Home Alone, or Labyrinth, but it’s an easy enough way to distract the kids for an hour and a half; and should give any 3-to-10-year-old a good few laughs, as Brendan Fraser’s exaggerated performance is something he excels at, and something the kids are bound to find hilarious, and who doesn’t like the idea of a rogue group of animals (led by a Braveheart wannabe raccoon) defending their home with ingenious traps?

It’s an easy option for a movie that’s guaranteed to entertain the kids, but don’t expect anything meaningful or thought provoking; give it a rent, or buy it when it filters down to the bank holiday offers and bargain bins, or better yet, wait for Toy Story 3 to be released, and buy a film that the whole family can appreciate.