When Animals Attack!

Woodland creatures defend their forest in Furry Vengeance

**1/2 Opens Friday areawide

For a movie about animal conservation, Furry Vengeance is awfully harsh on the woodland creatures, portraying them as conniving, destructive beasts bent on ruining the life of an affable real-estate developer. After watching the terrifying antics of this movie's digitally anthropomorphized raccoons, skunks, crows, and other fauna — stealing cars, attacking SUVs with Rube Goldberg-like catapults, assaulting humans with toxic blasts of skunk spray — you don't have to be Sarah Palin to think a gun might be the most efficient management tool. And that uncharitable response can hardly have been the one the producers intended.

This is a children's movie, so it must be filled with the kinds of things that make tots laugh — talking animals and people falling down or having buckets of bird droppings poured over their heads. (To be fair, the animals don't exactly talk; they occasionally produce a kind of gargled English and communicate with each other in amusing picture balloons.)

The movie manages to provide some laughs for adults. While the animals are portrayed unflatteringly, the humans fare much better, thanks to sharp writing and the casting of the appealing Brendan Fraser, Brooke Shields, and ubiquitous actor-physician Ken Jeong. Fraser plays Dan Sanders, a nature-loving executive for a supposedly "eco-friendly" development company. Dan has moved his reluctant family — schoolteacher wife Tammy (Shields) and sulky cyber-junkie teenage son Tyler (Matt Prokop) — from Chicago to the Oregon wilderness to live in a model home for a new subdivision.

Headed by a raccoon, the animals learn of the company's plan to build on their forest and launch an all-out war against Dan. The creatures' assault garners less sympathy than it should because Dan is really a nice fellow who is goaded by his sleazy boss (Jeong) into replacing the forest with a shopping mall.

As the animals wreak escalating havoc on Dan, forcing him into embarrassing situations, his strange behavior alarms his family and co-workers. Fraser and Shields acquit themselves gracefully amid the movie's impossibly silly slapstick.

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