..

DUDLEY DO-RIGHT

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfred Molina, Eric Idle
Director:  Hugh Wilson
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer, Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  Trailer, Cast and Crew Info, Production Notes, DVD ROM Extras
Length:  83 Minutes
Release Date:  December 28, 1999

Film *1/2

Jay Ward's cartoons were like the South Park of his day.  They were crudely animated, which was actually part of their charm, but funny on many levels.  They included enough slapstick to delight the youngsters, but also threw in an occasional barb or shot to please the grown-ups who watched.  Over the years, some of his most popular works have found their way to the big screen in the form of live action movies.  When George of the Jungle came out, it was a lightweight but sweetly funny surprise that most audiences enjoyed.  But despite the same appealing star, there's no such luck for the film version of Dudley Do-Right.

One aspect this movie reminds you of is that Dudley, Nell, and Snidely were never meant to fill more than a five minute cartoon short.  The only way to make a full scale feature with them was to stretch it painfully thin, and pad it with whatever happened to come to writer/director Hugh Wilson's mind.  Before the picture is over, you'll have witnessed a dinner show involving a tribe of Indians known as Kumquats, a rather silly martial arts training sequence, and a climax that involves machine guns, tanks, helicopters, and other heavy artillery.  Don't ask.

But the main problem with the film is not the weak ways it tries to fill space, it's the script.  It's simply not funny.  I smiled a few times during the movie.  I never laughed.  I spent most of my time wondering who actually read the thing and thought it would make a funny movie.

The cast is appealing, and their performances almost transcend the banality of the writing.  Brendan Fraser is a terrific comic actor, and I can think of no one else in recent memory who looks so much like he's having the time of his life on screen.  And Sarah Jessica Parker brings the right amount of hokey melodrama to Nell.

But in many of these pictures, the villain is the most interesting, and I have to say that this film belongs to Alfred Molina.  He is dead on perfect as Snidely Whiplash, from the voice to the walk to the overall mannerisms.  He too seems to be having a blast, and should be, considering he has the picture's best moments.  His performance alone is worth taking a look at the movie for.

Oh, and one other thing keeps the film from being a total loss…a brand new Fractured Fairy Tale at the beginning, which is a successful throwback to the old cartoons, and even features the voice of cartoon veteran June Foray (who used to play Rocky, Natasha, and all of the female characters for Jay Ward).  I was sad to see it come to an end and the actual movie start.

Video ****

Give credit where it's due…this is a remarkable looking DVD.  I only watched the anamorphic widescreen transfer, but it was gorgeous.  The film is bright and colorful throughout, and every image in every scene rendered beautifully.  The transfer was crisp and sharp, the colors were plentiful and well contained, and there was no evidence of grain or compression anywhere, even in the few darker scenes.  I only listened to the Dolby soundtrack, but the disc also features DTS.  The film is not great, but the transfer is reference quality—one of Universal's best offerings.

Audio ****

The 5.1 soundtrack was surprisingly strong, coming to vibrant and dynamic life in a great scene involving a rather exaggerated motorcycle chase and the aforementioned finale with the big guns.  There is a tremendous range of audio throughout, and this disc delivers nicely on all fronts, from the loud moments to the quieter dialogue, making good use of front and rear channels and the subwoofer.  It even boasts a terrific score by Steve Dorff.

Features **

The disc includes a trailer, production notes, and cast and crew info, plus some DVD ROM extras.

Summary:

Nostalgia for a great old cartoon and a good cast of actors simply cannot rescue a movie from a terrible script.  The enthusiasm inherent in the picture is appealing, but a comedy without laughs is hardly worthwhile entertainment.  Conceivably, Fraser has two more shots at bringing Jay Ward's world to cinematic life.  He could play Mr. Peabody, and, of course, Bullwinkle.  Why not?  In this film, he even gets to try a moose head on for size.