Animal Antics

Unleash the animal in you? I think not.

Predictable? From the word go, you could probably have written this screenplay yourself. But "The Animal" doesn’t aim at the intellect; instead, it’s shooting at your funny bone. 

This is how is goes: poor sod of a man, Marvin Mange (Rob Schneider) carries a rumpled piece of newspaper clipping of his dead father, a police officer, and vows each day to move from his dry duty as a police evidence clerk to the garb of a true-blue policeman. He’s the underdog at the station, where his inability to complete the mandatory obstacle course that finally awards you the badge pushes him to find ways to improve his physique.

One day, he skates off a cliff in a nasty car crash that leaves him with less than he started off. Then next thing he knows, he’s got the strength of an animal (make that a couple of them) along with their sensory faculties. All this is accomplished with the madcap experimentation of a recluse, Dr. Wilder (Michael Canton), who switched animal organs with Mange’s own, supposedly to save his life. 

Putting the animal to practise, he starts off by nabbing a drug dealer at the airport aided by his bloodhound instincts, and before he knows it, he’s the cop about town! And then there’s the love interest - Rianna (Colleen Haskell) who volunteers at the pet shelter and finds his erratic behaviour similar to that of the pets at the store. And all would have been capital, had it not been for Mange’s irrepressible animal urges that make him do weird things (talking pretty to a goat, with the crazy notion of hitting it off with her, is just one of them).

Rob’s deliverance is genuinely comic and some of the scenes are knee-slapping funny. Besides the quirky animal situation, a finer skein sees Rob’s black friend Miles (Guy Torry) suffering from reverse racism, where he doubts the intentions of every other white person, seeing them as acts of commiseration.

Rob Schneider is very believable, though the rest of the cast just about makes it to the crossing. Of the ones you don’t know about, Haskell is a rookie in show business, which is probably why they’ve allowed the girl a sorry twenty minutes of screen time with very little to do other than sport her smile. Luke Greenfield celebrates his feature directorial debut in this one, which perhaps explains his blasé deliverance.

This article was first published on 24 Dec 2001.