Dudley Do-right

on August 27, 1999 by L.J. Strom
"Dudley Do-Right" brings Jay Ward's television cartoon to the big screen in live-action form. Brendan Fraser plays the title character, a thick-headed but good-hearted Royal Canadian Mountie whose career and love life are threatened when the evil, mustachioed Snidely Whiplash (Molina) takes over Semi-Happy Valley. After buying out the town, Whiplash sets off an artificial gold rush so as to rake in the profits from the influx of tourists; his power and apparent benevolence attract the admiration of Dudley's childhood sweetheart, Nell (Parker). Having lost not only his girl but his home, his horse, and his uniform, Dudley is forced to learn courage from a grubby prospector-turned-kung-fu-master (Idle) and become the "bad guy" in order to save the day.
   Dudley may do right, but the movie doesn't; it hardly even tries. The script is half-baked at best and offers the unfortunate actors little to work with. Fraser, who showed real depth in "Gods and Monsters," barely registers here, while Molina and Parker appear to be simply going through the motions. Monty Python alum Idle is sorely miscast, and his role is so ill-conceived that it's difficult not to feel embarrassed on his behalf.
   What's most frustrating is that the filmmakers don't take full advantage of the animation origins of their material. Rather than create a separate world with its own loony logic, they have stubbornly nailed their story to the real world with topical references and an utterly lackluster style. Therefore, the slapstick, which would fly effortlessly in a more cartoonish universe, falls like lead here, and the characters, too thin to be enjoyed on a realistic basis, are also too banal and earth-bound to soar to the giddy heights of fanciful exaggeration.
   There' s more humor and zest in the six-minute "Fractured Fairy Tale" cartoon that precedes the film. Starring Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfred Molina and Eric Idle. Directed and written by Hugh Wilson. Produced by John Davis, Joseph M. Singer and J. Todd Harris. A Universal release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild comic action violence, and for brief language and innuendo. Running time: 83 min
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