There comes a time in the affairs of film critics when critical acumen completely breaks down, when one reaches one’s cinematic Waterloo, when all the carefully turned phrases that might otherwise occur flee the room and one is forced to merely say, “God, this movie is just plain dumb.” And — apart from some curiosity about the esoteric fact that the “original” story by Messrs. Tom Brady and Rob Schneider is more than a little bit like the Thorne Smith novel, The Stray Lamb, which is not mentioned in the credits — that’s about where I am on The Animal, the new and completely lame offering from “the producing team that brought you Deuce Bigelow.” This is one dumb movie. It isn’t in the same class of bad movies as, say, Freddy Got Fingered, but in its own way, it’s worse. At least that film was mesmerizingly bad in its jaw-dropping God-awfulness. This thing just lies there and dies. According to first-time director Luke Greenfield, Rob Schneider is “amazing.” He also claims, “If you just put a camera on him anywhere, anytime, it’s going to be funny.” Now, I’m not saying this is what Greenfield actually did, but the results suggest he very well might have. (I’d actually prefer to think that nobody wrote the scene where an aroused Schneider tries to “marry” a mailbox.) The Animal scales new heights in the realm of, “If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen everything,” because the film’s trailer includes every marginally effective gag this thing contains. The plot is exactly as presented: Ultra-loser Marvin Mange (Schneider) is rescued from a car wreck by bargain-basement mad scientist Dr. Wilder (Michael Caton), who saves his life by replacing his vital organs with those of a variety of animals. The upside of this is that Marvin is now blessed with all manner of super powers of scent, hearing and speed. He can also perform useful tricks like catching a Frisbee in his teeth and rescuing a drowning child while imitating a dolphin. The bad news is that his newly acquired animal instincts are taking over and he may well become dangerous. Of course, since this is a comedy (well, it’s supposed to be) and Marvin is the hero, we know that nothing of the sort will happen. And it doesn’t. Instead, we are blessed with a barrage of predictable and tedious gags until everything is all sorted out — even allowing time for an unfunny, pointless cameo by executive producer Adam Sandler. The ad campaign assures us that originally Marvin wasn’t much of a man and “now he isn’t much of an animal.” True. It’s also true that this isn’t much of a movie. The good news is that it’s only 82 minutes long. Even so, I want that 82 minutes of my life back.
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