Just a few hours before I saw The Animal, eighteen nightclubbers got bombed in Tel Aviv – and not in the fun way. That very same day most of the Nepalese Royal family was gunned down by the Crown Prince. (No doubt we’ll shortly learn that 29-year-old Crown Prince Dipendra was a death-metal fan with a penchant for trenchcoats. And then there will be the inevitable copycat massacre in which Prince William mows down the entire house of Windsor when Queen Elizabeth expresses doubts regarding his sudden betrothal to Christina Aguilera.) Just as shocking, Arlene Francis of What’s My Line and Imogene Coca of Your Show of Shows passed away, while Bob Hope continues to live on…
The moral of all this is nothing new: Every moment before we fall victim to that vengeance-bent suicide bomber, ill-timed heart attack or pissed-off royal scion is a precious one. Life is short — unless, of course, you’re Bob Hope.
Nevertheless, myself, 100 or so other adults and many poorly supervised children entered a Hollywood multiplex to spend a precious hour and a half seeing Rob Schneider in “The Animal.” Now, I’m not suggesting that we were all wasting our time. For my part, I was there to try and fill the oh-so-glaring vacancy left by the Film Threat staff and hopefully get my name into virtual print on a Web site regularly read by tens of people. Very enriching. Others in the audience may have been engaging in other important pursuits, such as spending quantity time with their poorly supervised children or sustaining the nourishment of their bodies by eating nutrient and fiber-rich popcorn made with canola oil. A few people laughed, but I don’t think they really meant much by it.
Anyhow, for those of you who don’t watch Comedy Central, “The Animal” stars Schneider as a pathetic would-be policeman who is rescued from a car accident by an eccentric scientist (calling him a “mad scientist” would be giving him too much credit) who then splices his genes with those of the animals deemed most amusing by Hollywood’s top focus groups, giving him the powers, but also the libidos and appetites, of an entire menagerie. The results produce approximately one light chuckle per five-minute scene as Schneider gets to do a series of sometimes amusing, usually irritating, animal impressions.
The problem really isn’t so much Rob Schneider — except to the extent that he co-wrote the movie. It’s the film as a whole. Every time it gets the urge to be really funny — or even, perhaps, sort of witty — it lies down until the feeling passes.
“The Animal” is sort of boring without exactly being listless. Sort of by-the-numbers-but-who-really-cares-about-the-numbers. A lot of actors and a couple of gag writers (Schneider and sitcom writer Tom Brady) and a neophyte director (Luke Greenfield) all spin their various wheels. Schneider gets to act like a dog, a dolphin, a horse, and a h***y goat while most of the costars only get to act like annoying people. Probably least annoying is leading lady Colleen “that cute girl on Survivor” Haskell, who manages to remain cute, actually looks Schneider in the eye once or twice and doesn’t actively embarrass herself. I’m not saying she can act, it’s just sadder to see poor Ed Asner try to soldier on as if he’s actually in a movie. I mean, what can you say about a film that is suddenly brought alive by an electrifying Norm MacDonald cameo?
On the other hand, there’s nothing too revolting here, nothing I’m going to have nightmares over. In fact, nothing, is basically what “The Animal” is. It’s a great yawning void where Rob Schneider can hump a mail box and attempt to seduce a goat. If that’s your idea of precious time well spent, you’re probably not me.