Dir: Brian Robbins. US.2006. 92mins.
Disney's latest update of one of its vintagelive-action family comedies pairs SantaClause star Tim Allen with that reliably popular screen character, thecutely anthropomorphised canine. It's predictable and only mildly amusingstuff; but it's also the kind of innocuous entertainment that sometimes lures asizeable family audience, if not in cinemas then certainly in the videomarketplace.
When it launches The Shaggy Dog this weekend in NorthAmerica, Disney will be hoping that baby boomer parents respond not just toAllen and the safely inoffensive comedy but also to their fond recollections ofthe original 1959 movie starring Fred MacMurray. Ifthe parents do respond, the kids will probably follow and the result could be amid-level theatrical performance on a par with recent Disney updates such as The Parent Trap and Herbie: Fully Loaded, both of which managed $66m domestically.
The nostalgia factor willnot count for as much in the international marketplace, where Buena VistaInternational will roll the film out between now and mid-summer. Allen willalso be less of an asset: even his biggest domestic hits - Disney's 1994 The Santa Clause and its 2002 sequel -have performed relatively poorly outside the US.
The film is actually basedon both The Shaggy Dog of 1959 andits 1976 sequel, The Shaggy DA. Fivewriters - including National Treasureteam the Wibberleys and Geoff Rodkey,who wrote the similarly bland but very successful Daddy Day Care - were used to update the story of Dave Douglas(Allen), an ambitious attorney who is struggling to find time in his busyschedule for his wife (Davis) and two children (Breslinand Grey).
When Dave is bitten by amysterious, 300-year-old Bearded Collie, he starts to change into a dog - ofthe same attractive breed - himself. The experience opens his eyes to the needsof his family and to the evil machinations of his client, genetic scientist Dr Kozak (Downey Jr).
While the familycircumstances are updated - Dave's daughter is an animal rights activist andhis son prefers musical theatre to football - the tone isn't too far off fromthe early-1960s innocence of the original.
Director Brian Robbins (whopreviously made young-skewing dramas VarsityBlues and Hardball) gets the storyoff to a sluggish start and then allows Allen full rein to dominate the actionwith his less than subtle comedy stylings.
The former Home Improvement sitcom star spends alot of his screen time doing dog impressions and there's an endless supply ofpretty obvious canine gags (Dave lifts his leg in the men's room, chases a cat,has his bum sniffed, etc).
Curiously, though, the filmmakes little attempt to give the original premise a visual update. Since Davethe dog doesn't talk, there's no CG lip-synching involved, and most of thetransformations from dog to human form and back again take place off camera.When CG effects are employed, it's often on the other animals that join Dave ina couple of Dr Dolittle-stylecomedy sequences.
Allen does an efficient jobdelivering his familiar comic shtick but other cast members are eitherunderused or less well suited to the tone. Downey Jrstrains to fit in with the broad comedy antics and several sterling talents -among them Danny Glover, Jane Curtin and Philip Baker Hall - are largelywasted.
Walt Disney Pictures
Boxing Cat Films
Walt Disney Pictures
Buena Vista International
Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Robert Downey Jr