How Bad Could It Be?: Who Let Les Chiens Out?

on March 10, 2010 by Steve Simels
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Well, I finally got around to watching Disney's new Blu-ray/DVD combo of Old Dogs, the theoretically hilarious family comedy starring John Travolta and Robin Williams as the titular geezers and Seth Green, daringly cast against type as Scott Evil their young apprentice. I missed this one in the theaters, for no particular reason other than a certain lingering anger at Williams over his participation in the execrable August Rush. But I have a serious thing, if you'll pardon the expression for co-star Rita (Mrs. Tom Hanks) Wilson, and since both the late Bernie Mac and the almost always interesting Matt Dillon are in there as well,I figured I really ought to give the flick a look. You know -- how bad could it be?

The plot (adapted from the video box):

Middle-aged best friends Charlie Reed (Travolta) and Dan Rayburn (Williams) have their lives turned upside down when they're unexpectedly charged with the care of seven-ear-old twins while on the verge of the biggest business deal of their lives. The clueless bachelors stumble in their efforts to take care of the children, leading to one debacle after another, with a gorilla and some pecking penguins -- and perhaps to a newfound understanding of what's really important in life. Thank you, John and Robin, for teaching us how to love again. Or whatever.

And here's the trailer to give you an idea of the film's heartwarmingness, if I may coin a phrase.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, the answer to our earlier question is "Depressingly awful," but in fairness, it's my own fault for not remembering that the film is directed by Walt Becker, the same miscreant who did the similarly talent-wasting mid-life crisis embarrassment Wild Hogs. (Seriously -- it takes some kind of demented genius to make Travolta come across without a shred of charm two films in a row, but Becker has managed it somehow). In any case, as you can figure from the synopsis, Old Dogs is a purely by the numbers exercise; what's kind of surprising is that even on its own dopey, formulaic terms it's so leaden and dispiriting. I don't think I'm giving anything away if I note that the scene in the trailer of Williams beaning a little kid with a soccer ball (which happens about three minutes into the story) was the only thing in the entire film that made me even crack a smile (and that includes the entirety of the late Mac's performance). For what it's worth, the Blu-ray version in the package looks incrementally better than the DVD, although if you care particularly about the degree to which Jeffrey L. Kimball's cinematography is done justice by a digital medium, you probably have way too much time on your hands. And speaking of leisure time, the Blu-ray also comes with the usual plethora of extras, including a Bryan Adams music video (talk about a mid-life crisis) and a running audio commentary by director Becker and his two screenwriter co-conspirators. In any case, you can -- and if you do, I can only assume you have several undiscriminating ten-year-olds in your immediate family -- order Old Dogs over here.

Tags: John Travolta, Robin Williams, Seth Green, Old Dogs
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