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ANIMAL, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Garage dwelling evidence clerk Marvin Mange (Rob Schneider) dreams of being a cop like his late father - if only he could pass the physical without wetting his pants. One day while the entire force is out playing softball, Marvin get his chance at heroism by thwarting a burglary, but drives his car off a cliff on the way. He regains consciousness a changed man; stronger, faster, with heightened senses, a voracious appetite, uncontrollable sexual urges, and hair where there wasn't any hair. Marvin's new-found animal instincts make sense when a mad scientist (Michael Caton) admits he saved his life by implanting donor animal organs. Not only do Marvin's new talents get him onto the force and the attention of a pretty animal lover (Colleen Haskell), they have a mob after him for mutilating a cow.

Lowbrow with a capital L, The Animal at least revels in its minimal aspirations and delivers just about every gag you'd expect in a film about a would-be cop made out of animal parts. If you liked Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo you'll love watching Rob Schneider sniff out drugs secreted in a courier's body cavity, smooth talking a goat on heat and coughing up a furball. The preview audience I saw this with certainly did and they yocked even louder when Schneider let a baby vulture eat chewed up worms out of his mouth. Champagne comedy if you appreciate the considerable lengths Rob Schneider will go to in the pursuit of laughs and believe me, he will do anything. To be fair, Schneider has a kind of goofy everyman presence that generates some sympathy for his character and makes it hard to be offended by his schtick even while it's heavy on the gross-outs. The same can't be said for his awful haircut - issue that man a "air-don't ticket immediately! Schneider and Adam Sandler - whose Happy Madison production company made this - are pleasing large crowds with this kind of lowest common denominator entertainment and The Animal will no doubt keep fans happy. I note that Marvin's romantic interest is played by Colleen Haskell who was one of the original Survivor competitors and obviously has a good agent. She's quite sweet in the middle of all this tom-foolery and Australia's Michael Caton, with little to do, manages to avoid major embarrassment. I did feel sorry for Edward Asner, though. Is playing the Police Academy inspired chief his reward for distinguished service on screen and behind the scenes as a union organiser? Hardly, but if he was offered points in the film he can look forward to his cut from the many millions this will make.
Richard Kuipers
(unfavourable but undeniable)

Lacking Adam Sandler's latent anger or the snide charm of David Spade, Rob Schneider is probably the least interesting of the 90s cohort of Hollywood comedians who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live. A weasely, balding guy who seems eager to please, he's not quite unbearably obnoxious, but neither is he someone you particularly want to watch for ninety minutes. Despite this, someone in Hollywood obviously has faith in Schneider - his two star vehicles to date are the cinematic equivalent of an attempt to launch a new fast food chain. There's a level of slickness in their scripts (Schneider's collaborator, Tom Brady, worked on The Simpsons) but basically it's no-frills comedy - cheap, crappy and disposable. Still, on some level a film like The Animal is undeniably satisfying: through its naked reliance on formula, it exposes the primal impulses at the heart of all effective comedy (and drama). The basic story of The Animal has probably been told and retold throughout history: an arrested adolescent loser finally manages to prove his manhood when he yields to his repressed animal instincts. The plot gimmick where Marvin literally becomes part-animal is an excellent dramatic metaphor for this: it's just a pity that the script doesn't take things far enough, and that Schneider isn't a more inspiring physical performer. With a premise that would have offered unlimited opportunities for a genuine wild man like John Belushi or a virtuoso like Jim Carrey, this scrawny nerd bobbing his head like a penguin simply doesn't cut it. Given Schneider's lack of charisma, you start to wonder why slapstick comedies should be so totally focused on self-pitying heterosexual men and their desires. As in a lot of recent gross-out films, many scenes here get their charge by gesturing towards various unorthodox possibilities (such as S&M, homosexuality or animal-human sex) before hastily swerving away from the implications. While the film supposedly endorses animal craziness and freedom, it's also saturated in smug conservative attitudes - revealed most blatantly in the stupid, offensive subplot about Marvin's black sidekick (Guy Torry) and his complaints of reverse racism.
Jake Wilson

Made by and for pre-adolescent boys - or those yet to outgrow pre-adolescence - The Animal has more grins than giggles, unless you think marking your girlfriend's territory or sweet-talking a goat is funny. If you do, you'll know this is another poo-joke production from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison team (also behind Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Big Daddy, Little Nicky, and Joe Dirt. Are two-word titles all they can think up?) Sandler produced both this and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, so he must think highly of Schneider, who also co-wrote this script. Such as it is. Perhaps they watched The Island of Dr. Moreau one too many times and thought it would make a good comedy. It is amusing, but like most Sandler movies, it's a string of loosely connected (mostly gross-out) gags that have no bearing on the plot; they exist just because someone thought them funny. So we are meant to laugh when Schneider outruns a stallion, or catches a frisbee in his mouth, or sniffs drugs stuck up someone's butt at the airport? It's sad when jokes involving animals are funnier than ones involving humans. Schneider's fist-fight with an orangutan is a cack, but then again it's been done before. The only amusing human joke is from Marvin's friend Miles (Guy Torry), who's hung up on how white people are nice to him just because he's black. As for Schneider, his sweet natured imbecile routine may actually be preferable to Sandler's obnoxious shouter, yet both actors are destined to wilt in the shadow of Jim Carrey (who wisely knows more than mere comedy). And far from his big Hollywood debut, The Castle's Michael Caton makes a fool of himself here. He'll be lucky to appear in anything but more Happy Madison movies. I'd like to end this review with a toilet joke about where Sandler and Schneider's careers are heading, but like their film, it wouldn't be funny. So if you are keen, I'm forming my own mob to march on the studio who gave this dog the green light. No thanks, Columbia.
Shannon J. Harvey

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 1

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW with audio clips

ANIMAL, THE (M)
(US)

CAST: Rob Schneider, Colleen Haskell, Michael Caton, John C. McGinley, Edward Asner

PRODUCERS: Barry Bernardi, Carr D'Angelo, Todd Garner

DIRECTOR: Luke Greenfield

SCRIPT: Tom Brady (story and screenplay), Rob Schneider (screenplay)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Lyons Collister

EDITOR: Jeff Gourson, Peck Prior

MUSIC: Teddy Castellucci

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alan Au

RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 2, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: January 2, 2001







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