How Brendan Fraser Became The Perfect Cartoon Character
Brendan Fraser is earning rave reviews for his performance in The Whale, the controversial (and unfortunately-titled) movie about a “reclusive English teacher living with severe obesity.” Even folks who don’t like the movie are still praising Fraser for his work – and these are probably the same critics who thought they were too darn good for Encino Man.
Fraser has had a pretty wild career so far; after making the aforementioned Pauly Shore/Sean Astin vehicle, he starred in dramas like School Ties and With Honors, then ended up going full cartoon character in 1997 with George of the Jungle, Disney’s adaptation of the classic Jay Ward cartoon series. Even though strapping on George’s loincloth may not have garnered him any awards buzz, Fraser’s simplistic earnestness anchored what otherwise could have been a complete disaster.
While he continued making other, more prestigious films that in no way featured CGI jungle animals (such as 1998’s Gods and Monsters), Fraser kept the cartoon thing going. In 1999, he starred in yet another film based on a Jay Ward cartoon, Dudley Do-Right, which … is not good, you guys.
But even so, Fraser felt totally of a piece with the cartoon universe that he inhabited – which isn’t as easy to pull off as it sounds, as evidenced by some of the other live-action movies based on Jay Ward shows, including The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, starring Robert DeNiro for some ungodly reason.
Despite the commercial failure of Dudley Do-Right, Fraser continued to work in the human-cartoon sphere, first in the maligned but potential cult favorite, Monkeybone.
And Fraser was arguably a far better fit in the world of Warner Bros. animation than Michael Jordan, as seen in the 2003 Space Jam follow-up Looney Tunes: Back in Action (also briefly featuring B-movie legend Roger Corman and, um, Batman).
So while, in hindsight, some of these films may potentially be regarded as a low point in Fraser’s career (especially if he takes home the Oscar next year), it’s also worth noting that he played the human cartoon consistently well – something we can’t exactly say about the star of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. And in a way, these performances, to some extent, anticipated the current state of blockbuster acting since Marvel movies routinely showcase handsome leading men forced to wholly commit to a heightened, even goofy reality, at the risk of looking completely ridiculous.
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