By Owen Gleiberman
Updated June 01, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Rob Schneider appears to be dedicating his movie career to making Adam Sandler look like a pinky wiggling highbrow. The Animal, his latest slob-orama vehicle, was coproduced by Sandler (as was Schneider’s 1999 sleeper hit, ”Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo”), and it follows the master’s formula of setting up a hero who is such an egregriously arrested dimwit loser that the art of screen comedy seems to be devolving right along with him. As Marvin, a wimpish file clerk with no life apart from his pathetic dream of becoming a policeman, Schneider, with a contorted grimace and fashion challenged mop that makes him look like the runt of the Brady litter, is a put on masochist who revels in his ”I’m so unsexy” hideousness.

Following a near lethal auto accident, Marvin gets his insides replaced by random animal parts, and they begin to take control of him. If anyone else (i.e., David Spade) had played this role, the joke might have worn out in five minutes. But Rob Schneider may be the only comedian I can think of who looks like he could honestly use an infusion of animal id. In ”The Animal,” his eruptions of beastly aggression arrive as spontaneously as those sneeze climaxes he used to have when he played the orgasm guy on ”Saturday Night Live.” Whether he’s slamming a mailbox in canine sexual frenzy, trying to seduce a horny goat, or getting into a slapfight with a rivalrous orangutan, Schneider, as Marvin, seems as shocked by his inner animal as we are. The resulting movie may be ramshackle in the extreme (there’s no plot, just variations on the same low gag), but it’s a good natured comedy of hormonally charged, down in the mud slapstick.

The film also features cute as a dewdrop Colleen Haskell, from ”Survivor,” who proves at least as winning in the generic love interest role as the Maxim cover babe type generally recruited for this sort of movie. ”The Animal,” while a good deal funnier than ”Deuce Bigelow,” is still destined to get branded, if not condemned, as ”dumb.” I’m not sure, however, that it’s even fair to apply that word to a comedy with no pretense of connecting to higher brain functions. In a culture where anything vaguely edgy gets squashed by the consumer marketing machine before it is even born, acting like a stupid, sex crazed subhuman may be the closest thing to rebellion we have.