1999, PG, 75 min. Directed by Hugh Wilson. Starring Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfred Molina, Eric Idle, Robert Prosky, Alex Rocco, Jack Kehler, Jed Rees.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 3, 1999
Let me just say how much I have enjoyed the work of Brendan Fraser in the past. I first noticed him as the victimized preppy Semite in 1992's School Ties. Not much of a movie (like its star, too earnest and eager), but you could tell this not-yet-strapping bundle of jawbone could go far. He has, of course, and since then Fraser has triumphed in both comic (the surprisingly entertaining George of the Jungle) and dramatic roles (the most romantic film of the past decade -- Still Breathing -- as well as the near-perfect pathos of Gods and Monsters). Clearly, here is an actor who is more than the sum of his pectorals. Riding on charm alone, however, will only get you so far in this cinematic life, and sadly, Dudley Do-Right has precious little else to offer outside of Fraser's winning smile. Based on Jay Ward's subversive and iconic characters from the early Sixties The Bullwinkle Show, this live-action version centers around the upright Royal Canadian Mountie's unrequited love for childhood sweetheart Nell Fenwick (Parker) and his clashes with arch-nemesis Snidely Whiplash (Molina), who also loves the pure Nell (who, in turn, also loves Dudley's horse, Horse). A more twisted love quadrangle you're unlikely to find outside of some of the more bizarre Internet adult sites, though there's absolutely nada in Wilson's film that could be even remotely construed as “adult humor.” For that matter, there's not even anything in Wilson's film that could be considered “humor.” It's that bad. When Whiplash decides to manufacture a fake gold rush outside Dudley's hometown of Semi-Happy Falls (by peppering the fields and streams with a .20-ought loaded with gold), Dudley must save the day and, if possible, convince Nell that he's the one for her. This is slow going for a man so dunderheaded that he regularly mounts his horse backward and makes a habit of smashing himself in the noodle with whatever errant bit of floorboard might be lying around. Tough work indeed, but the RCMP have always been known for their perseverance, if not their equestrian skills. Molina, all handlebar mustache and jet-black stovepipe hat, has a field day acting the cad, but anyone over the approximate age of eight is going to have a task on their hands finding much to laugh about in Wilson's supremely unfunny adaptation. The bottom line appears to be that even though it may be hilarious to see a cartoon Mountie smooch his horse, real-life equine lovin' is a horse of a different color indeed. While Wilson (who also wrote the script) tries gamely to toss those adults in the audience a bone from time to time (Monty Python alum Idle as a besotted prospector ends up Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, har har), there's nary a chuckle to be found. Fraser's goofy mug may be the only thing that saves this film's exhibitors from losing their theatres to mobs of unamused, torch-wielding patrons. Then again, it doesn't seem like anyone's even going to see this dreck, so maybe they're off the hook.