The very notion that Rob Schneider has what it takes to carry a movie is probably the funniest thing about "The Animal," another sloppy comedy produced by his buddy Adam Sandler.
I mean, if you're looking for an obnoxious sidekick or five minutes of physical schtick, Schneider might be a good person to have on your short list. But it would take more than his rubbery face and a complete lack of shame to make something entertaining out of this lowbrow, high-concept gimmick of a movie.
Schneider plays a toadying, inept evidence room clerk who drives his car off a cliff in the first reel and has his life saved by a mad scientist (Michael Caton) who gives him a multiple-organ transplant using guts from animal kingdom donors. When he comes to, our hero can run like a horse, swim like a dolphin and smell and hear like a dog.
Some of his newfound gifts help Rob fulfill his dream of becoming a real cop when he saves a drowning kid in front of local politicos at a charity event and uses his new sniffer to help him make a drug bust.
The fact that he's willing to eat and regurgitate worms for a starving baby bird also somehow scores him a date with a cute animal shelter volunteer (Colleen Haskell of "Survivor" fame).
But of course, there are inconvenient side-effects, like the uncontrollable animal urges to chase Frisbees, sniff butts, hump goats and, er, mark his territory all over Haskell's house.
Only a little of this is funny, but that comes as no surprise when you consider the people who made this movie were collectively responsible for "Tomcats," "Joe Dirt,", "Deuce Bigalow" and "Little Nicky" among other laughless wonders.
"The Animal" actually has a respectable ration of ripe humor -- it's just that few of the good guffaws have anything to do with the plot. They're all asides like the fact that Schneider's best buddy (Guy Torry) is a black man fed up with getting special treatment from anxious and politically correct white folks. That particular running gag even has a pay-off in the last act that is far and away the biggest laugh in the movie.
Director Luke Greenfield seems to know where his picture's best comedy lies and how to maximize those moments. But he feels obligated to upstage them with the lamer, story-driven gags and he's wildly inconsistent about following through on themes, even themes obtrusively established in the movie's early going. Somebody must have gone ape on "The Animal" in the editing room.
If Greenfield and Schneider (who co-wrote the script) had aimed a little higher than just piling skit-caliber material onto a gimmicky framework -- if they'd cared about more than just selling movie tickets to teenage boys -- there might have been a silk purse to be had from this sow's ear.
"The Animal" is sporadically funny. It's just not funny enough to bother paying for when a year from now it will be in heavy rotation on HBO or Showtime.