A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Buddy'' is about a woman who is stark raving mad, and the filmmakers don't seem to know it. She lives in a rambling suburban mansion with six geese, five dogs, countless cats, tanks full of fish, a parrot, horses and two chimpanzees, which she likes to dress up and take to the movies. One day she brings home a baby gorilla named "Buddy.'' How does her husband react? Well, he's a doctor, and so he takes out his stethoscope, examines the infant simian and gravely announces, "double pneumonia.'' But little Buddy recovers, and soon he is a full-sized gorilla, although the woman insists on treating him as if he were a child (she tells a gorilla expert that a little chicken soup never hurts).
I watched this movie with steadily mounting incredulity. I was trying to find the category for it, and there isn't one. The posters make it look like a madcap family film about a zany couple and their lovable pets. But in a family film you don't expect subtle but unmistakable sexual undertones. Nor is it a serious wildlife film like "Gorillas in the Mist". Not with Buddy wearing a suit and tie, and the chimps juggling meat cleavers in the kitchen. It could be a study of undiagnosed mental illness, if it weren't shot on perky 1930s sets, scored with upbeat music and played by the actors like a "Thin Man" movie with Nick and Nora on Prozac.
The film, "based on a true story,'' stars Rene Russo as Trudy Lintz, who fills her home with animals. Robbie Coltrane plays her chubby, long-suffering and, I must say, remarkably patient husband. His job is to wear three-piece suits and pleasantly say, "Trudy, sweetheart? I wonder if I might have a word with you . . . '' (It's inspired casting to put a fat man in this role: He knows a 900-pound gorilla can sit down wherever he wants to, but he always thought *he* was the gorilla.) The household also includes a cook (Irma P. Hall) whose standard lines ("Don't you do that in my kitchen!'') sound strange when addressed to apes, and a butler (Alan Cumming) whose tasks include extricating his mistress from Buddy's death grip by distracting the beast with bowls of milk. He also presumably cleans up around the house, if you get my drift, although that aspect of the situation is not explored.
More than once during the film, I was reminded of John Cassavetes' "Love Streams", where the deeply disturbed Gena Rowlands character pulls up in a taxi with a duck, a goat, some chickens, a dog and a parrot, having done a little compulsive shopping at a pet store. The difference is, "Love Streams" knows its heroine is nuts, and "Buddy'' doesn't. One of the peculiarities of the film is the vast distance between the movie they've made and the movie they think they've made.