Rob Schneider stars in this bestial comedy about a wannabe cop who develops odd animal tendencies after a mad scientist transplants him with animal organs in a lifesaving operation. Though The Animal is not the most innovative, gut-busting comedy, it's surprisingly not half bad.
Marvin Mange (Schneider) works in the evidence room of a small town police station. He has always wanted to become a full-fledged police officer and follow in his father's footsteps, only he's too wimpy to pass the physical endurance test. Nothing is looking good for this asthmatic loser until his car goes careening off a cliff. Marvin survives thanks to the cabin-bound Dr. Wilder (Michael Caton) who, after having cracked the genetic code, patches him back together with various animal organs. With no memory of what has happened to him, Marvin goes about his daily life, until strange things start to happen. He develops abnormally acute senses and, after sniffing out a heroin-filled balloon located in a drug smuggler's butt, he becomes a local hero and--best of all--a real cop. His antics get the attention of Rianna (Colleen Haskell) a volunteer at a local animal shelter. A hardcore vegetarian, Rianna finds Marvin's ability to catch a Frisbee with his mouth and regurgitate a worm for a motherless baby turkey endearing. But Marvin is quickly losing his battle with his animal self, and keeping up appearances becomes increasingly difficult.
It is very difficult not to sympathize with Schneider's character in this film. With his big droopy eyes, you almost get the impression that even Schneider feels sorry for Marvin. And even though his lines are not inherently funny and the delivery is slightly blasé, his stunts are really rather amusing. He actually looks like a cheetah when he runs, and he licks his leg with the genuine elegance of a feline. And you have to respect Schneider for not taking the same route that so many other Saturday Night Live alumnus have, stretching a good five minute skit into a disastrous two hour feature film (imagine watching a cinematic version of Richard "The Richmeister" Laymer). As for Haskell (Survivor), though she is incredibly adorable and natural looking, she delivers her lines so slowly that she almost sounds childlike. Thank goodness there were not too many multi-syllabic words written into the script for her character Rianna. Bemusing cameo appearances from both Norm Macdonald and Adam Sandler add to the film's climax.
First-time director Luke Greenfield does a great job with the stunts (like Schneider gliding across the water like a circus seal or running inside a man-sized hamster wheel). They'll leave you wondering how they did it. Some props deserve an honorable mention, like Marvin's bachelor pad with the garage door doubling as a home entertainment center, or Dr. Wilder's barnyard laboratory. But while Schneider's antics will have you laughing, they are not enough to carry the entire film. Tom Brady, who wrote the screenplay with Schneider, has worked on television shows such as The Simpsons and Men Behaving Badly, and should have delivered nothing less than solid, laugh-a-minute comedy-but didn't. The story leads up to a disappointing conclusion that looks like it was drawn up in 60 seconds. Nonetheless, the story is sweet in its own corny sort of way.
If you like Adam Sandler comedies, chances are you will get a few good chuckles out of The Animal. Even if you are a critic of that genre, the film slightly exceeds expectations.