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"THE ANIMAL"
(2001) (Rob Schneider, Colleen Haskell) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Having received transplanted animal organs during a life saving surgical procedure, a lowly police file clerk turns into a super cop and must then contend with the various animal urges that are now surging through his body.
PLOT:
Marvin Mange (ROB SCHNEIDER) is a lowly police file clerk who must not only contend with his mean and condescending superior, Sgt. Doug Sisk (JOHN C. McGINLEY), but also the fact that his repeated failure to pass the required obstacle course test is what's prevented him from becoming a full-fledged cop. Accordingly, he drowns his sorrows with various friends including Miles (GUY TORRY) who thinks he receives preferential treatment due to him being an African-American.

Nevertheless, Marvin decides to report to an armed robbery in progress when he can't find anyone else to go, but ends up in a horrible, one-vehicle car accident. Rescued by rogue scientist and surgeon Dr. Wilder (MICHAEL CATON), who transplants various animal organs into his body to keep him alive, Marvin returns to work unaware of what's transpired.

He and others, including his new friend, animal shelter worker Rianna (COLLEEN HASKELL), become suspicious, however, of his newfound physical abilities and animal senses. As he soon becomes something of a super cop - sniffing out drug runners at the airport and rescuing a young, drowning boy, all of which impress the big boss, Chief Wilson (ED ASNER) - Marvin must contend with Sisk, Dr. Wilder and the various animal instincts and urges that are now surging through his body.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
When it comes to bad ideas, Hollywood obviously doesn't have the monopoly or exclusive rights to them. After all, one can't forget the Edsel, new Coke or the most recent such debacle, the XFL. Nevertheless, it certainly seems that moviemakers deliver more than their fair share of films with stupid, idiotic or lamebrained ideas or plots. While pictures such as "Dumb and Dumber" and the "Bill & Ted" and "Ace Ventura" films obviously weren't designed to be award winners - at least of the good kind - there's dumb and then there's really dumb.

That thought best describes the latest such effort, "The Animal," a film that manages to squander the smidgeon of potential it inherently possesses. Essentially a juvenile comedic twist on the old Frankenstein legend, this time the "monster" is an assortment of stitched together animal parts rather than human ones, although they're all internal rather than external.

Therein lies the film's underlying potential as the protagonist not only "inherits" the physical characteristics and capabilities of the various "donors," but also their animal urges, most notably that of the need to propagate. The reasons for that, however, don't make any sense and are never explained. To make matters worse, the animal imitation bits are lifted from other films that used them far more humorously and creatively, such as in "Nutty Professor II" where Eddie Murphy did the man-dog bit (putting newspapers on the floor in the men's room, being distracted by a game of fetch, etc.).

Despite all of that, there's still some potential present - no matter how inherently stupid -- but first-time director Luke Greenfield and co-screenwriters Rob Schneider and Tom Brady (making his feature film debut) pretty much squander what's here and forgo plenty of other opportunities for generating laughs.

With the myriad of species in the animal world, the filmmakers have missed all sorts of gags they could have used, even if they wouldn't have made any more sense from a logic standpoint than what's present. Those that are come off as random, standalone events that make the film feel nothing short of episodic, where none of the gags build on themselves or their predecessors and don't have any related payoffs later in the film.

Most of the related jokes and visual bits that are included are rather lame in concept and poor in execution, and aren't particularly clever or explored fully enough. Examples of that include the protagonist sniffing out drugs smuggled in someone's rectum, catching a Frisbee in his mouth, feeding a baby chick from his mouth, swimming like an aquarium show dolphin, and humping a mailbox when seeing a shapely woman bending over in a tight-fitting dress.

Non-animal humor consists of Schneider's character having to deal with various insults and indignities, and a supporting character - played by Guy Torry ("Life," "American History X") - who negatively and/or suspiciously reacts to everything good that happens to him as if it were the result of him being African-American. While the latter is slightly amusing at first, it's run into the ground so much that it becomes tedious.

All of which leaves us with yet another film that feels like a mediocre "Saturday Night Live" skit that's been expanded - questionably at best - into a feature length picture. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise considering that both Schneider and producer Adam Sandler came from "SNL."

Yet, what could have been a slightly amusing two or three-minute skit simply doesn't work that well as a full-blown theatrical release. Beyond a few cute and stupidly funny moments and sight gags - that have little to do with the main plot or premise - most of the jokes and related humor fall flat.

Considering all of that, few will be shocked that the performances aren't particularly funny or noteworthy. As the lead character, Rob Schneider ("Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo," "Judge Dredd") might not be as ill-equipped to carry a picture as, say fellow SNL alum Norm Macdonald (who has a cameo here), but he doesn't bring the same sort of comedic timing or physical abilities to the role as would someone like Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy.

Evidently trying to milk every last ounce of public adoration for the "Survivor" TV series, the filmmakers have also cast Colleen Haskell (who makes here feature film debut after appearing in the first run of that "reality" show) as Schneider's love interest. Although she has something of a Meg Ryan cuteness and sweetness going for her, she can't really act.

A visibly pumped up John C. McGinley ("Get Carter," "Any Given Sunday") plays the film's bad guy, but can't do much with his one-dimensional, stereotypical character. The same holds true for Michael Caton ("The Castle," "The Thirteenth Floor") as the rogue scientist and surgeon who fills the protagonist with animal parts, while Ed Asner ("The Bachelor," TV's "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") is wasted in a small role as the police chief.

While some younger teens may find some of the decidedly juvenile material and related humor funny, most everyone else won't. Not surprisingly, and taking its pedigree into account, "The Animal" turns out to be quite a dog and thus rates as just a 2 out of 10.




Reviewed May 15, 2001 / Posted June 1, 2001


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