Dir: Luke Greenfield. US. 2001. 83 mins.
After the surprise winter 1999 success of his first starring vehicle, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, former Saturday Night Live funny man Rob Schneider gets the chance to carry a high-profile summer movie with The Animal, a resolutely dumb but occasionally endearing comedy. Backed by an aggressive marketing campaign - distributor Sony paid some US exhibitors to run trailers for The Animal before screenings of The Mummy Returns - the film is on course for a solid US box-office, taking $19.8m over its first weekend. International grosses are likely to be modest (Deuce Bigalow reaped less than a third of its $92m total gross outside the US), although the film's physical humour may go down well in some markets.
By playing up the sweet side of Schneider's comic persona, The Animal - which has been produced for Revolution Studios by fellow SNL alumnus Adam Sandler's Happy Madison outfit - appears, probably wisely, to have been aiming for a slightly broader audience than recent young-male comedy flops like Sandler's Little Nicky, Happy Madison's Joe Dirt and Revolution's Tomcats. Schneider's Marvin Mange is a pathetic loser, living in a converted garage, working as a small-town police clerk while yearning to follow in his Dad's footsteps as a fully-fledged cop and pining anonymously after local environmental activist Rianna (Haskell). Almost killed in a car accident, Marvin is rescued by a nutty professor (Australian character actor Caton) who reconstructs him using animal organs.
The 'new' Marvin has the nose of a drug-sniffing dog, the speed of a cheetah and the aquatic abilities of a dolphin, qualities which quickly earn him a police badge and local-hero status. However, Marvin also has to cope with some less acceptable attributes, like a lust for raw meat and an inconveniently rampant sex drive.
Most of the resulting comedy is very basic slapstick, which Schneider delivers with appealing conviction and energy. His animal impressions are reliably amusing, but he might have given himself a better showcase if the script, which he co-wrote, had taken some more varied approaches to the plot's premise.
The film's supporting cast includes weird cameos, moral supporters and gimmicky newcomers. Haskell is making her film debut after appearing in the US version of TV reality show Survivor, and while she's certainly cute, the acting still needs some work. SNL veterans Norm Macdonald and Sandler make brief, in-jokey appearances and the venerable Ed Asner shows up in a small and rather strange role that makes a nod to the new comedy generation.
Prod cos Revolution Studios, Happy Madison
US dist Columbia Pictures
Int'l dist Columbia TriStar Film
Prods Barry Bernadini, Carr D'Angelo, Todd Garner
Exec prods Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo
Scr Tom Brady, Rob Schneider
Cinematography Peter Lyons Collister
Prod des Alan Au
Eds Jeff Gourson, Peck Prior
Music Teddy Castellucci
Main cast Rob Schneider, Colleen Haskell, John C McGinley, Michael Caton, Guy Torry, Louis Lombardi, Edward Asner