September 06, 1999 12:00 PM

Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alfred Molina

There are certain movie concepts that strike a spark in the public imagination and flare up into a blaze of anticipation and hype. This summer’s examples are obvious: Tom and Nicole in Stanley Kubrick’s final project; the latest installment in that adventure set in a galaxy far, far away; and, finally, this live-action version of the old TV cartoon about a dumb, handsome Canadian Mountie. Yes, Dudley Do-Right is here at last, with Brendan Fraser in the title role, Sarah Jessica Parker as his sweetheart, Nell, and Alfred Molina as Dudley’s nemesis, Snidely Whiplash.

And, like Eyes Wide Shut and The Phantom Menace before it, Dudley Do-Right must be judged a disappointment. It’s not remotely as cute, funny or smart as George of the Jungle, the 1997 live-action adaptation that had Fraser swinging from vines and smacking into trees.

Still, as written and directed by Hugh Wilson (The First Wives Club), Dudley is probably as good a human version of the 1960s original as anyone else could have come up with. The cartoon is a send-up of old-fashioned melodrama, with Nell routinely tied to a railway and Whiplash, his head topped with a tall black hat, twirling his mustache. The movie, set in the modern world, gives Dudley his own sports utility vehicle, includes appearances by Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gilford and features a number that parodies Ireland’s Riverdance, only this time performed by an Indian tribe called the Kumquats. Fraser and Parker play their parts with the right note of sweet vacuity. If not quite out to lunch, they’re definitely thinking about it. Same goes for the movie. (PG)

Bottom Line: Not much a-Do

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