The Animal (2001)

(Amazon Prime Streaming, October 2017) For such an easy punchline, Rob Schneider’s apex as a leading comedy actor is actually quite short, from 1999’s Deuce Bigalow to 2002’s The Hot Chick, with 2001’s The Animal in the middle of those two. Before and after that, Schneider is to be found in supporting roles and cameos in Happy Madison productions … sometimes effectively but usually not. The Animal certainly presents Schneider in a familiar role, taking advantage of a high-concept comic premise to be as crude as possible in the name of getting laughs. It very occasionally works here, but The Animal is more annoying than funny even while allowing for the usual Happy Madison lowest-denominator methods. What helps a bit is that Schneider is up against first-season-of-Survivor early TV Reality star Colleen Haskell in the lead romantic role. She may have charmed all of North America in 2000, but as an actress Haskell is an empty void—she’s cute but so bland that she’s a rare case study of non-acting in a Hollywood picture. She at least has the decency of looking suitably baffled as Schneider showboats all around her, exhibiting animal traits in a series of comic bits that would be actively embarrassing to explain to the preschoolers for which the film is seemingly destined. (“Yeah, he’s rubbing against the mailbox because … oh, let’s watch a Disney movie again.”) There are a handful of laughs in the movie, largely due to Norm MacDonald’s too-short appearance as an overly analytical mob member, and a final anti-racism joke that surprisingly lands despite the film’s best efforts to make it offensive. Otherwise, well, The Animal is surely sliding away as an unlamented dim memory, and that’s not a tragedy. Maybe, someday, we will forget all about Schneider as well.

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