The Shaggy Dog

Movie Information

Genre: Family Comedy-Fantasy
Director: Brian Robbins
Starring: Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Zena Grey, Spencer Breslin, Robert Downey, Jr.
Rated: PG

Any movie that still thinks it’s funny to include on its soundtrack the Baha Men singing (and I use the term loosely) “Who Let the Dogs Out?” — whether in reference to literal or figurative canines — is so creatively and comedically bankrupt that it’s beneath any kind of serious discussion.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg of the crimes against humanity committed by Brian Robbins’ The Shaggy Dog — a combined remake of the 1959 Disney film of the same name and its lame 1976 sequel, The Shaggy D.A. (thereby offering two crummy remakes for the price of one).

Let’s start with the poster. The image of a bearded collie (the film seems to believe it’s a sheepdog; at least the animal-rights activists therein do, since no one else ever suggests it’s anything other than shaggy) with Tim Allen’s eyes grafted onto its head is far creepier than anything in the entire 107 minutes of The Hills Have Eyes. For that matter, the mutated animals that are CGI’d into The Shaggy Dog for comedic purposes are more unsettling than cute.

Then there’s the whole Tim Allen factor. He presumably has his adherents — though they usually only show up for movies with the words “Santa Clause” in the titles — but I’ve met very few of them. Even granting their existence, do they really want to see the man hike his leg to use a urinal, have a CGI tongue loll out of his mouth, or have his butt sniffed for 98 solid minutes? We will dispense with dwelling on the coy nude shots of Allen when on occasion he inconveniently reverts from dogdom to humandom. Some things are just better not contemplated.

In the same mood, let’s pass over the movie’s status as Four Actors in Search of a Paycheck, as concerns the participation of Danny Glover, Robert Downey Jr., Jane Curtin and Philip Baker Hall. Instead, let’s ponder the inclusion of yet another “gag” predicated on the idea that there’s nothing funnier than seeing an elderly woman knocked down in the course of a slapstick sequence (we just saw this in the new Pink Panther). Since the elderly woman in question is a non-character completely unrelated to the story and given no personality apart from being old, and who has done nothing other than exist, the humor is grounded in nothing but the image of the elderly being somehow abused.

For those who care, the plot — bludgeoned together by five credited screenwriters — is all about an unscrupulous pharmaceutical company trying to find the secret to halting the aging process by studying this 300-year-old bearded collie stolen from a lamasery in Tibet through the evil machinations of Dr. Kozak (Robert Downey Jr.). At the same time, Dave Douglas (Allen), a zealous assistant D.A. and negligent father (is there any other kind in modern family comedy?), is prosecuting an animal-rights activist for allegedly setting fire to the company’s headquarters. Problem is that Douglas’ daughter, Carly (Zena Grey, In Good Company), is on the activist’s side and ends up in possession of the dog of the title. Said dog bites Douglas, inflicting him with a cutesy variation on lycanthropy.

What happens then? Well, life-lessons will be learned, of course. The good will be vindicated; the bad will be punished; Douglas will see the error of his workaholic ways and become a better husband and father; a really lousy CGI dog will go surfing; and peace will rule the planets and love will steer the stars. (OK, that last part is only implied.)

The sad thing is that the movie will probably make a modest fortune, since it no longer appears that a “family” film need even attain adequacy — let alone actual merit — to make a buck at the box-office. Families in search of entertainment deserve better. Rated PG for some mild rude humor.

– reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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