Rob Schneider's last starring vehicle, 1999's "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo," was an at times uproarious, sunny comedy that proved his talents could easily rival that of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler. In contrast, Luke Greenfield's "The Animal" is just plain lame. While the overall premise has definite comic possibilities, everything about the finished product screams, "tiresome!"
The aptly-named Marvin Mange (Rob Schneider) is a crime evidence protector who dreams of becoming a police officer, if only he could pass the obstacle course section of the test. Following a freak car accident that leaves his body mangled, he is saved by mad scientist Dr. Wilder (Michael Caton) by being replaced with spare internal animal parts. Returning to his daily life without any memories of what has happened to him, his newfound keen sense of smell helps him to peg a man at the airport carrying a bag full of heroin. Marvin soon finds himself becoming a cop, but his extreme animal urges are beginning to get the best of him.
No matter how hard screenwriters Tom Brady and Rob Schneider try to extract constant gags out of "The Animal," it just isn't very funny. Excessively juvenile and with only one witty ongoing joke, involving "reverse racism," a theory which Marvin's black friend, Miles (Guy Torry), creates, the film is a by-the-numbers effort from start to finish. At only 83 minutes, at least it is short.
Rob Schneider remains a likable personality, sort of a kinder, gentler Adam Sandler. He's a capable actor, and as "Deuce Bigalow" proved, can be quite funny when the material is strong. As his inevitable love interest, "Survivor" contestant Colleen Haskell plays Rianna, a feisty animal-lover who finds Marvin's similarities with her beloved animals endearing. It's difficult to say whether Haskell is a good actor; her thin role only requires that she smile a whole lot, and she does that well.
There isn't much else to say about "The Animal." I sat there for the duration of its running time unimpressed and without much to find amusing. Hopefully, Schneider will try a little harder his next time at bat, because with another movie as bad as "The Animal," he may be in danger of turning into Pauly Shore. And we all know what he's doing now. Or, on second thought, we don't.
©2001 by Dustin Putman