Dir: John Whitesell. US. 2001. 94 mins.
Aimed squarely at an audience of families with younger children, See Spot Run does not waste much effort on subtleties. The comedy is a mix of basic slapstick and potty humour, while the plot spins a sugary romance around a perky blonde, an orphaned postman, a cute kid and a lovable mutt - with the latter enjoying the most fully-developed characterisation. The dog even gets a supporting cast of rascally - but still lovable - canines.
As calculated as it is, though, it is still fairly watchable. The film took a good $10m-plus over its opening weekend and, even if the box office does drop off quickly, it is likely to set up what seems to have been a very inexpensive film for a decent run on video and television.
If the film has a bright spot it is David Arquette, an actor who now has his loveable schtick down to a fine art. Arquette's Gordon is a postal worker - abandoned as an infant in a mail box - who spends his on-duty hours trying to avoid snapping pooches and his free time in pathetic bachelorhood. When love interest Stephanie (Bibb) is let down by a baby-sitter, Gordon volunteers to look after James (Jones), her strictly brought-up and fatherless child.
After a Big Daddy-style spell of awkwardness, Gordon and James start to bond over Agent 11, an escaped drug-sniffing FBI hound who, we are asked to believe, is on the run from the Mafia.
As the film works its way towards a happy-family conclusion, some clunky parallels are drawn between Gordon, fun-starved James and the similarly deprived Agent 11. And there's a cursory sub-plot involving Agent 11's FBI handler (Duncan), whose distress over the missing dog blinds him to the romantic advances of an attractive colleague.
The selling point, however, is the comedy. Arquette handles most of the slapstick with aplomb and his energy brightens up some very old routines. As Gordon's pal and co-worker Benny, Anderson provides a welcome witty edge. Sorvino plays Agent 11's Mafia nemesis Sonny, the butt of the film's more bawdy jokes.
Kids will probably giggle at the fart and poop gags, especially Arquette's set-piece encounter with a pile of dog do. Parents will have to settle for mild amusement, though they can rest assured that the film adequately veils its attempts at more adult humour.
Prod cos: Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment. Dist (US): Warner. Exec prods: Michael Alexander Miller, Bruce Berman. Prods: Robert Simonds, Tracey Trench, Andrew Deane. Scr: George Gallo, Gregory Poirier, Danny Baron, Chris Faber. Cinematographer: John Bartley. Prod des: Mark Freeborn. Ed: Cara Silverman. Music: John Debney. Main cast: David Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Joe Viterelli, Angus T Jones, Steven R Schirripa, Anthony Anderson, Paul Sorvino