After he proved so sweetly winning as George of the Jungle in that
live-action version of the popular cartoon, Brendan Fraser was an inspired
choice to embody another of Jay Ward's animated characters, the Royal
Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right. In interviews, Fraser had often spoken
of his grandfather who was in the Mounties and this was a chance for the
lantern-jawed actor to pay homage to his fore bearer. Since he had already
demonstrated his comic panache as the vine-swinging George, the idea of
him as Dudley sparked high expectations. Factor in Alfred Molina as the
villainous Snidely Whiplash and Sarah Jessica Parker as Nell Fenwick and
for what more could you ask. Well, truthfully, a decent script and a good
director, both of which this version of Dudley Do-Right are woefully lacking.
In a scant 77 minutes, helmer Hugh Wilson trashes the memories
of those baby boomers who grew up on the cartoon. Wilson primarily made
his mark in television ("Frank's Place") and in features with the Police
Academy films. (His Guarding Tess, while somewhat sitcomish, is
probably his best film but a great deal of the credit there goes to stars
Shirley MacLaine and Nicolas Cage.)
There are two basic problems with this live-action version of
Dudley Do-Right , the lack of a consistent tone (it veers from slapstick
to groan-inducing puns to mild comedy) and a badly chosen idea to have
Dudley drummed out of the Mounties and remake his image by riding a
Harley and donned black leather. (Not that Fraser doesn't look good in that
garb, but it ain't true to the spirit of the cartoon.) Given those constraints,
Fraser does what he can with the role, attempting to maintain the "gee
whiz", slightly dopey earnestness of the character. Molina was an inspired
choice to play Snidely and almost pulls it off, but he too is saddled with
an inconsistent character.
And poor Sarah Jessica Parker is virtually wasted as Nell who can't
seem to decide whether she loves the upright Dudley or the rich but sinister
Snidely. Of the supporting cast, Alex Rocco plays the chief of the Kumquat
Nation as a Brooklynese gangster with dialogue that is far from politically
correct and Eric Idle turns up as a grimy prospector who counsels Dudley.
I suspect that very young children might find the antics amusing, but older
kids and their parents who harbor memories of the original cartoons will be
severely disappointed. The less said, the better.
Playing with the film is a new short Fractured Fairy Tales: The Phox,
the Box and the Lox, an amusing parable about a wily fox who tricks a
dumb local into opening a locked box which contains a hidden treasure. Its
three minutes possesses all the wit and imagination that Dudley lacks.
|© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.