Pity Brendan Fraser. While he occassionally displays his talent by stretching out to unique films such as Still Breathing, Gods and Monsters, or The Twilight of the Golds, like an unerring yo-yo, he always returns to his goofball origins of Encino Man. On rare occasions, his returns prove to be wonderfully hilarious, such as in George of the Jungle, most of the time, they result in duds like Airheads. Dudley Do-Right tries with all its might to be another George. Unfortunately, the film proves to be a 98-lbs. weakling, and its might doesn’t get it very far.
Much like George of the Jungle, Dudley Do-Right is based upon a wacky, somewhat dimwitted cartoon by Jay Ward. While there’s plenty of “dimwitted” on the screen, “wacky” is nowhere to be found. Dudley Do-Right (Fraser), for those not in the know, is a good hearted Canadian Mountie, always at odds with the nefarious Snidley Whiplash (Alfred Molina). Dudley’s true love is Nell Fenwick (Sarah Jessica Parker), who routinely finds herself right in the middle of Snidley’s evil plans.
In the film, Snidley concocts a scheme worthy of Rube Goldberg. He seizes all the property in Semi-Happy Valley, starts rumors of a gold rush, and extracts profit from the gold-crazed masses who swarm to the valley. Dudley is at a loss to stop him, for all of Snidley’s profiteering is seemingly legal.
So, Dudley is faced with an unusual dilemma. How does the good guy fight the bad guy when the bad guy goes good? Must Dudley become the bad guy to beat Snidley at his own game? It’s an ethical dilemma that is a bit too serious for this cartoon fare, and yet too cartoony to be taken seriously. In fact, the whole thing was a bit confusing until it became clear that it was merely an extravagant setup for Dudley to be konked in the head (and other anatomical areas) with various hard objects.
One of the problems with Dudley Do-Right, is the film just doesn’t know when to stop. Having Dudley get hit in the head once with a loose floorboard is mildly amusing at best. By the twentieth time, the effect is simply nauseating. In one of the film’s best jokes, the Kumquat Indians stage a Vegas-style “traditional” dance…then the film presses its luck and plays the exact same joke all over again, except this time it collapses with a resounding “thud”. Dudley Do-Right would have greatly benefited from a little moderation.
Fraser brings his trademark George of the Jungle goofiness to the role, and little else. Alfred Molina at least gets a showier part as Snidely. However, Sarah Jessica Parker gets the worst role of the bunch. Even in the cartoon, Nell was merely a lightweight romantic object for Dudley’s affections. However, the new movie gets rid of her signature scene (being tied to the railroad tracks ala The Perils of Pauline), and proves that it is always possible to make an inconsequential role even more so.
Young children, and those with a severely underdeveloped sense of humor, may find something to chuckle at now and then in Dudley Do-Right. But, Dudley, you’re no George! Somebody stop Brendan Fraser before he ultimately accepts the role of Super Chicken…