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(October 2003)

The Human Cartoon
Brendan Fraser and friendBrendan Fraser has been quoted as saying he likes to play the “odd man out”, the “fish out of water” characters. And he’s good at it. In fact, few other actors of his generation have his ability to switch from truly cartoonish farces to fine dramatic roles. Last month we pointed out that he was the hapless sap in foolish love with the delicious Frances O’Connor, and a sucker to the Devil in Bedazzled (2000). In 2001 Fraser had the unusual distinction of being in one of the most successful movies of the year: The Mummy Returns- a box office smash grossing almost $450,000,000 world-wide; and in the same year, one of biggest flops: Monkeybone- which cost a reported $70 million to make and grossed a mere $5 million. Interesting in that both film are part of his “cartoon” repertoire.

Brendan Fraser as George of The JungleIn Monkeybone, Kaja Blackley graphic novel brought to the screen, Brendan plays a cartoonist with everything going for him until his creation comes alive and Death (Whoopi Goldberg) has to be outwitted. The Mummy Returns was the follow up to 1999's The Mummy and Brendan is an adventurer in the Indiana Jones mold who pairs with Rachel Weiaz’s feisty archeologist to defeat the reanimated and malevolent creature of the title. Other cartoon-like Fraser films include George of The Jungle (1997)- “Watch of for that tree!”, Blast from The Past (1999) where Brendan played the son of 60s peace-niks raised in a fallout shelter. Naturally, when he finally goes to the surface in the 1999, he’s the quintessence of fish-out-of-water. In Dudley Do-Right (1999)- another character from the pen of the great Jay Ward (who also gave us George of The Jungle)- Brendan is, of course, that backward horse-riding Mountie matching wits with Snidely Whiplash (Alfred Molina).

Brendan Fraser and Bugs BunnyTwo of Brendan Fraser’s dramatic roles for which high praise has been heaped his way are in Gods and Monsters (1998), where he’s a former Marine, a Korean War vet, hired by the director James Whale (Ian McKellen) as a gardener. James Whale was the director of the horror masterpieces Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein. He was also openly gay at a time when this was not openly tolerated. In this movie, Whale is aging and half-forgotten and, while he does not seduce his hulky but straight gardener, he does convince him to model for him and an unusual friendship develops. Fraser does a fine, sensitive job and more than holds his own against acting giants McKellen and Lynn Redgrave. He is also fine in the role originated by Audie Murphy in the 1958 version of The Quiet American (2002). He is the quiet American, a seemingly na´ve businessman in Saigon in 1952. In fact he’s a CIA agent provocateur, trying to start the revolution that will eventually lead America into the Vietnam War.

Looney Tunes: Back in ActionFinally, swinging back to the funny side, we can look forward to Brendan Fraser in Joe Dante’s Looney Tunes: Back In Action, due out this year. This is Dante’s first film since 1998 (Small Soldiers). We at The Toast are huge fans of Joe Dante (maker of The Howling in 1981, Gremlins (1984), Explorers (1985), Innerspace (1987) and Matinee in 1993) and we’re all just a-twitter in anticipation. This movie looks to be a combined animation and live-action a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).

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