`Dudley' done wrong

August 27, 1999|By Brian McTavish | Brian McTavish,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Based on the witless Royal Canadian Mountie character created by TV animation producer Jay Ward in the 1960s, "Dudley Do-Right" tries to stretch a seven-minute cartoon into a feature-length film -- with a seven-minute story.

If there's a tale here worth telling, it's one of marketing over moviemaking: Get Brendan Fraser, the amiable hunk star of "George of the Jungle" (another Ward cartoon given the live-action treatment in 1997), and the crowd that made "George" a hit will do the same for "Dudley."

Someone should have told writer/director/executive producer Hugh Wilson ("Blast From the Past") he needed more to work with than an audience's good will.

What story there is centers on Dudley's square-jawed efforts to keep evil Snidely Whiplash (Alfred Molina) from taking over the Canadian Rockies community of Semi-Happy Valley.

As a damsel in only occasional distress, Sarah Jessica Parker (HBO's "Sex in the City") is wasted as Nell Fenwick, who can't decide whether she wants to be Dudley's or Snidely's girl.

Alex Rocco does a nice job of rolling his eyes as an Indian chief of Brooklyn descent. Snidely's right-hand bootlicker (Jack Kehler) and Eric Idle as a drunken prospector who cleans up his act long enough to teach Dudley how to get in touch with his inner warrior are a hoot.

Visually, the film is indistinctive, even clumsy. Even so, it has just enough funny sight gags, laugh lines and supporting characters to elevate it to mediocrity.

`Dudley Do-Right'

Starring Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker and Alfred Molina

Directed by Hugh Wilson

Released by Universal

Rated PG (comic violence, brief language and innuendo)

Running time: 120 minutes

Sun score: **

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