Review by Daniel Lima
It’s always disappointing to see a fantastic premise squandered. Based on a children’s book, The Furry Fortune had amazing potential as an odd, light-hearted, high-concept family film. That potential goes unrealized. Even by the standards of low-budget family entertainment, this is one of the shoddiest, laziest attempts at a comedy I’ve had the furry misfortune of watching.
A young brother and sister discover that the family dog has suddenly begun to shed money when it is happy. As the down-on-their-luck family begins to enjoy this infinite money exploit, they draw the ire of their new neighbors, a jerk IRS agent and his jerk son. As wondrous as the canine’s ability is, however, it might prove that his greatest superpower is how he brings the family together.
This is a crowdfunded family-friendly indie, and its meager budget certainly shows. A low budget is not an inherently bad thing, but the days of an ultra low-budget movie like Manos: The Hands of Fate — when the restrictions of shooting on film required a certain amount of forethought and consideration simply to capture an image — have since passed. In the age where the raw capture of a digital sensor is considered good enough, a film like The Furry Fortune seemingly cannot afford simple film craft like framing, blocking, and lighting.
There is no visual ingenuity beyond keeping people in frame and in focus, no attempt to communicate a story visually, much less attempt visual comedy. The blandness calls attention to the awful production design, which makes the supposedly beleaguered but lived-in family home look like the two-day studio rental space it probably is. The result is a film with the misé-en-scene of an early morning infomercial.
Worse still is the editing. This is an alleged comedy, and so the camera often lingers a beat or two longer on every joke than it ought to, almost as if to give the audience time to laugh. This approach actively undermines the jokes, giving them nothing but dead air to die on, rather than establishing a defined and deliberate rhythm that would accentuate all the zingers. All that empty space leads to the film — only eighty-six minutes including credits — feeling crushingly, agonizingly long.
It doesn’t help that precious little actually happens. Rather than focus on the magic dog that sheds money himself, The Furry Fortune is structured around the hijinks that the magic dog inspires, which boils down to montages where the family buys stuff, hides money, and the neighbors investigate the family. For a movie about a dog that sheds money, the film is studiously unimaginative in teasing out that scenario, which makes it feel like even more of a slog.
As poor as all the fundamental craft elements are, if the film actually managed to land a joke here and there, that wouldn’t be an issue. Sadly, even by the low standards of direct-to-video family entertainment, this is a pointedly laughless affair. Almost every line is an attempt at a joke, be it classic setup-punchline, pop culture reference, or just outsized delivery. Each is a resounding dud: the traditional jokes are the kind of tired, hack material you’d expect from a parody of family entertainment (one cutting jibe is “pineapple doesn’t go on pizza!”), the references are out of place and remind you of better ways you could spend your time, and the hammy performances quickly become irritating. Comedy is subjective, but it’s hard to imagine someone writing this and being satisfied, much less seeing it through to completion as-is.
As torturous as sitting through this film was, there have been theatrically released studio comedies this year, with many times the resources of an indie like this, that are just as devoid of film craft and comic sensibility. It costs nothing, however, to write a good joke, or maintain a tight edit, or at least put the cute dog front and center. Instead, The Furry Fortune settles for putting in the least amount of effort at every turn, and the result is a plodding, uninspired, embarrassing attempt at family fun. The only possible audience for something like this is parents who need something for their kids to watch, and who also hate their kids.
The Furry Fortune is available on VOD beginning August 1st.