- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by David Medsker
atching “Old Dogs” is a lot like watching Ohio State football. There are clearly some smart people behind its creation, but when it comes to execution, they’re all about playing it safe. Here’s the gay joke, here’s the groin shot (and shortly after that, the other groin shot), here’s the ‘funny face’ scene. Then there is this other, completely gonzo movie happening at the same time, filled with crazy campers, hand models with lazy eyes, and Amy Sedaris. Good for them for trying to stretch the field, but the two extremes work against each other more than they work together, and the end result, while zany, is mostly directionless.
John Travolta and Robin Williams star respectively as Charlie and Dan, longtime friends and sole partners of a boutique sports marketing firm. They’re courting a lucrative Japanese client when Dan receives a visit from Vicki (Kelly Preston), a girl with whom he briefly married after a lost weekend in Miami. Vicki is off to jail for a couple weeks (social activist stunt), and she’s leaving her six-year-old twins Zach (Conner Rayburn) and Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta) in the hands of her friend Jenna (Rita Wilson, the lazy-eyed hand model). Vicki’s telling Dan this because surprise! He’s the kids’ father, and she hoped he would take some time to get to know them. After an accident lays Jenna up in the hospital, Dan takes the kids and moves them into Charlie’s bachelor pad – Dan lives in one of those adults-only communities – and gets a crash course on life with children, and quickly realizes he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Travolta and Williams do two very different kinds of funny, but they work well together here. Their back-and-forth banter is as light and breezy as the material, and occasionally they do or say something that suggests a smarter and altogether better movie was theirs for the taking. After all, when you are able to recruit Justin Long to play a lunatic camper, Dax Shepherd and Luis Guzman to play baby proofers, and Rita Wilson to play a woman who is gone almost as soon as she appears, there is clearly the potential to do something funnier than having Robin Williams hit someone in the pills with a golf ball…on his backswing. Please.
But such is the state of family entertainment these days. Easy works, easy sells. This is nothing new, of course, but you would think that Disney might step up their game a little bit after seeing just how successful their partners at Pixar have been by not taking the easy way, by using their early success to branch out and make some highly entertaining but also downright challenging movies (“WALL·E,” “Up,” “Ratatouille”). Disney got a taste of that themselves with “Enchanted,” and even “Bolt” to a lesser extent. Most of the time, though, it’s balls to the groin, and gorillas cuddling humans singing Air Supply (Seth Green, another funny person wasted here).
And there is a time and a place for balls to the groin; some of the greatest comedies of all time feature groin shots, so it’s not the inclusion of one that sinks “Old Dog.” It’s the movie’s lack of focus, followed by a lack of original ideas. Rita Wilson’s eye isn’t the only lazy thing here.
Three-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Disney would have been better off releasing “Old Dogs” without any special features at all, because the few that have been included are pretty pointless. The commentary with director Walt Becker and writers David Diamond and David Weissman confirms your worst fear (that they actually thought they made a good movie), while the bloopers and deleted scenes are so short that if you blink, you'll miss them. There’s also a short featurette where the child actors interview their adult counterparts, as well as two poorly made music videos, one of which features John Travolta singing "Every Little Step."