THE SHAGGY DOG
***1/2 (out of 5)
March 10, 2006
Tim Allen as DAVE DOUGLAS
Kristen Davis as REBECCA DOUGLAS
Zena Grey as CARLY DOUGLAS
Spencer Breslin as JOSH DOUGLAS
Danny Glover as KEN HOLLISTER
Robert Downey Jr. as DR. KOZAK
Directed by: Brian Robbins
BY KEVIN CARR
Almost fifty years ago, Walt Disney produced his first live-action film for theatrical release. “The Shaggy Dog” went on to be one of the biggest money-makers of the year and turn into a family classic. Now the Walt Disney company has remade the film.
This time, it’s not the young Tommy Kirk that’s turned into a dog, but funnyman Tim Allen. As a strange hybrid of the original film and its sequel “The Shaggy D.A.,” this version sees Allen as Dave Douglas, a hard-hitting lawyer itching to become the district attorney. He hates dogs and doesn’t pay much attention to his family. However, when he is bitten by a 300-year-old magical mutt, he turns into a shaggy dog himself.
When he’s the dog, he has a chance to see his family as they really are, learning that he hasn’t been the best father and husband around. He also gains new insight into his animal rights case he’s prosecuting, leading him to go after the villainous pharmaceutical company that’s running illegal animal experimentation.
“The Shaggy Dog” is good, clean, silly fun. It’s not something that teenagers are going to particularly like, and it’s not your typical date movie. It’s aimed directly for the family crowd – and families with young kids, at that. I took my two young sons to the movie, and they really enjoyed it. I wasn’t surprised about this. They’re two years old and four years old, so it’s hard to go wrong with dogs in this kid’s movie.
Unlike the original film, this version milks much of its comedy from Tim Allen struggling with his dog tendencies. Anyone who owns a dog should get a kick out of his antics. He definitely gets in touch with his dog side and manages to spoof both his stand-up routine and his Disney alter ego of Buzz Lightyear.
Yet, while Tim Allen is the star, a nod has to go to Robert Downey Jr. as the evil executive from the pharmaceutical company. There is a bit of disdain that comes through his performance, but he delivers a quirky, funny villain.
Things get really silly in this film with mutant animals abound, including snakes, rabbits, apes and frogs that have their own dog tendencies. By the end of the film, any hope of logic is abandoned. This actually works to its favor because you will either hate the goofiness or just give into it. I chose to give into it.
There are some things with the movie, however, that didn’t sit quite right. In some ways, the writers have tried to patch the holes from the original film. Instead of a mysterious incantation, it’s a high-tech viral agent that changes Douglas into a dog. However, the science is about as good as that in “General Hospital.” Still, you don’t go see a Disney family film for a science lesson.
The other problem that I had was that the characters all accept Douglas turning into a dog far too easily. Even he figures it out and accepts it immediately, going through no denial. He literally sees himself on a monitor and says, “I guess I’ve turned into a dog.” Ultimately, I understand why this was done. The filmmakers didn’t want to waste time getting a character to believe an impossible premise, but it would have been nice if they tried a little bit.
One part of the film does cross the line a bit – the overly one-sided animal rights push of the movie. It’s nothing new to have a Hollywood film that vilifies the pharmaceutical industry, but the left wing agenda is painfully clear under the script. The fortunate thing is that this movie won’t be taken seriously by anyone as a political piece. No one’s going to take it seriously for anything but an afternoon with the kids. It’s “The Shaggy Dog,” for crying out loud.