Review: 'Dudley Do-Right' goes totally wrong
August 27, 1999
By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- It is a fairly amazing experience to be sitting with 500 people in a movie theater -- in total silence -- while watching a comedy. Yep, no laughter from this dud "Dudley Do-Right" -- none at all, at least for the first half-hour, and then only intermittent giggles here and there until the movie finally limped to its conclusion.
This film's production notes say the movie is set in a community called "Semi-Happy Valley," "where nothing ever happens." Truer words were never written.
Brendan Fraser was a big hit playing George in "George Of The Jungle," another cartoon creation by the late Jay Ward that was turned into a live action feature film in 1997. So playing Dudley Do-Right must have sounded like a good idea. At this point, he may regret that decision.
Original characters return
As in the original cartoon, Dudley's a sweet-natured but bumbling member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Sarah Jessica Parker plays his gal pal, Nell, and Alfred Molina plays the evil Snidely Whiplash (one of the best character names to come down the pike since Cruella De Vil, the delicious villainess in "101 Dalmations"). Eric Idle and Alex Rocco also give their all to no avail as supporting characters in this unfortunate film.
This time around, Snidely's evil deed is salting the local streams with gold. His plan triggers the biggest gold rush since the Klondike and makes him incredibly rich by allowing him to milk the thousands of wanna-be millionaires who flood "Semi-Happy Valley" -- now called "Whiplash City" -- looking for overnight riches.
Meanwhile, our earnest hero, Dudley, is fired by Nell's father, Inspector Fenwick, played by Robert Prosky. It also doesn't help matters that Nell seems to be charmed by Whiplash. Parker plays an updated, more modern Nell. She's not the helpless young woman tied to a railroad track as she was in the original cartoon. This time she's been around, but she's still confused about the men in her life.
So what's a guy in a red jacket and big hat, who has just lost his girl, his faithful horse and his job, to do? Why, jump on a motorcycle, defeat the bad guy, win back his gal, and save his town from evil -- that's what.
Hugh Wilson wrote, directed and executive-produced "Dudley Do-Right." He's had successes in the past. He directed "The First Wives Club," and wrote and directed "Blast from the Past," also starring Fraser.
But this time around, he's delivered a clunker of a movie. Wilson's limp script is rarely funny, and most of the so-called comedic dialogue just sits there like a side dish nobody ordered.
No one involved in this film comes out unscathed. A couple of wild, full-out musical production numbers that are take-offs on the "Lord of the Dance" theatrical production are somewhat amusing. But for the most part, this is one thunderously bad movie.
The beauty of Ward's original "Dudley Do-Right" cartoon -- and "George of the Jungle," and "Rocky and Bullwinkle," plus all of his "Fractured Fairy Tales" for that matter -- is that they worked on two levels. They provided plenty of slapstick fun for kids, and they also played well for adults with wry, dry humor, double entendres galore and plenty of campy asides.
Unfortunately,"Dudley Do-Right" misses on all counts. Adults and kids will be equally bored.
If you have fond memories of the "Dudley Do-Right" cartoons, keep them intact by not seeing this film. But if you feel you have to go, there is one good thing: The catchy tune played over the closing credits makes great music to RUN to as you flee the theater.
"Dudley Do-Right" opens nationwide on August 27 and is rated PG with a running time of 120 minutes.
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