Rated PG - Running Time: 1:15 - Released 8/27/99

Anyone who watched the Rocky And Bulwinkle cartoon of the '60s would remember the "Dudley Do-Right" character as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who, though lacking in the brain power of his fellow cast members, was morally as straight as an arrow. In fact, as his name implies, he could do no wrong — at least not intentionally. However, that is unfortunately not the case for Brendan Fraser, who plays him in the film of the same title, nor is it true for writer/director Hugh Wilson, nor for almost anyone involved. Dudley Do-Right, the movie, can't seem to do anything right.

The show starts promisingly enough with an enjoyable "Fractured Fairy Tales" cartoon which, if it is not lifted from the original TV series, is an excellent imitation. But it has nothing to do with Dudley Do-Right, and after it's over, the proceedings go rapidly downhill. First we see a painfully lame prologue starring three child actors playing our three leads as children, and then the action cuts to their adult counterparts. Snidely Whiplash (Alfred Molina), having somehow acquired a British accent while growing up, takes over the small, Canadian mountain town of Semi-Happy Valley. He does this by buying the town with stolen money and establishing a huge tourist trade with a fake gold rush. He re-opens all the businesses and staffs them with his large gang of outlaws, becoming so popular and successful that he actually begins to be thought of as the "good guy."

Dudley (Fraser), having failed to stop Whiplash, gets fired from the RCMP and meets a bum (Monty Python veteran Eric Idle) who teaches him how to beat the villain: with no job and therefore no moral requirements, he is free to succeed by becoming the "bad guy." The addition of a black leather jacket and motorcycle not only makes Dudley a better match for his lifelong foe, but also more attractive to the insipid Nell (Sarah Jessica Parker), who has apparently spent her life vacillating between the affections of the two gentlemen.

This live action version is a hollow shell of its cartoon inspiration, lacking the subtle wit and tongue-in-cheek delivery that separated Rocky And Bulwinkle from its contemporaries. Moreover, Fraser, distinguished in such films as Gods And Monsters, George Of The Jungle, and Blast From The Past, shows here that he is not perfect. His Dudley is flat and uninteresting, constantly upstaged by Molina's Whiplash. Molina's part is hardly any better in Wilson's weak script, but at least Snidely gets a few good lines in now and then.

Also showing us he can do wrong is writer/director Wilson; after such noble projects as Guarding Tess and the aforementioned Blast, his attempt at a Mel Brooks style is mostly a failure sprinkled with occasional bits of success. The ever-present narrator device is occasionally cute, but doesn't work like it did in George. A few dynamic dance numbers show off Fraser's rug-cutting skills, but they seem included solely for that purpose. The action sequences are likewise pointless and disjointed, as if written separately from the film's plot and plugged in when Wilson felt they were needed. Lending a modicum of success is Idle, who delivers a few laughs, but like Molina he can only do so much with his lackluster part. Meanwhile, Parker is no less boring than Fraser: while Nell's cartoon persona was pretty-but-brainless, an apt counterpart for Dudley, Parker's characterization seems to have no personality at all.

Though occasionally producing a minor chuckle, Dudley Do-Right is mainly characterized by good artists making bad choices.

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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