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Dudley Do-Right Reviews

Why in the wide, wide, world of sports would anybody make a big-budget feature film from a decades-old, animated cartoon parody of Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald movies? Four words: GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, also created by cartoon auteur Jay Ward. Writer/director Hugh Wilson's film begins promisingly, with a new animated Fractured Fairy Tale segment that nails the look and tone of the original Bullwinkle Show; Boomer parents in the screening audience howled with delight. The live action that follows, however, is nowhere near as faithful to its source, though the hip ten-year-olds in the crowd — the film's intended demographic and, as such, too young to have fond memories of the original — didn't seem to mind. The plot is Kate-Moss thin: baddie Snidely Whiplash (Alfred Molina), Do-Right's rival for the affections of Nell Fenwick (Sarah Jessica Parker), stages a phony gold rush to get the Canadian town of Semi-Happy Valley into his nefarious clutches. Then we wait for Dudley (Brendan Fraser, drawing on his patented goofy sincerity) to foil the plot and get the girl, as Wilson offers musical numbers (including a "Riverdance" spoof performed by Indians), RETURN OF THE JEDI and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK parodies, and Eric Idle as a grizzled prospector playing Yoda to Dudley's Luke. Basically agreeable stuff, but not much more. And that's a shame. Ward's Dudley was a narcissistic fathead, a sort of proto-Ted Baxter with a hint of bestiality; here he's just a sweet (if accident-prone) naif, which is nowhere nearly as funny. Fortunately, Molina has a grand time as the mustachioed Snidely, delivering Wilson's weakest jokes ("I love to leer," he tells one victim. "It's so me!") with a wonderfully demented, hambone intensity. Would that he had somebody equally over the top to play against.