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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Old Dogs

Title: Old Dogs

Year of Release: 2009

Date Viewed: July 31st, 2010

MPAA Rating: PG

There are some comedies that cause you laugh uncontrollably and then feel guilty about it later. Usually those movies contain excessive amounts of sex scenes and profanity. Not something you're eager to show your parents but perfect for when you have the house to yourself. Old Dogs is one of those comedies except that there are no sex scenes and very little profanity. In fact, the entirety of its content is clean save for some bathroom humor. So why do I feel guilty about enjoying it? Because it's not very good.

The story is about two best friends, Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams). The two of them have been business partners for several decades. They have found so much financial success that they are fortunate enough to own a fancy and surely expensive apartment in their hometown of New York City. They are on the verge of finalizing one of the best business deals of their lives and things have never looked better.

Then one day, Dan receives a visit from Vicki (Kelly Preston), someone he had a one night stand with seven years ago. Surprise! Dan is the father of their twins. The less surprising news: Vicki has a fourteen day jail sentence to serve. Dan volunteers to take the children under his care, much to the dismay of Charlie.

What follows is the same joke being repeated in different gags. The kids are demanding and are always messing things up for the adults. Imagine if Dennis the Menace had a twin sister and they were left under the care of Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider. There's your movie in a nutshell.

There is also an amusing running gag where Charlie and Dan are mistaken for grandparents. In one scene, the pair take the kids to the New York Mets stadium where they spend the day hanging out with the players before the game. (Did I mention these guys were rich?) When the group gets some face time on the jumbo tron, a "Happy Grandparents Day" message appears on the bottom of the screen. Old dogs indeed.

Rounding out the script which wouldn't surprise me if those two kids wrote it, Charlie and Dan continue to test the patience of their potential Japanese business partners. A golf game between them goes all wrong after the children switch up the daily medication of their adult guardians. The humor is eighty percent slapstick and twenty percent of Robin Williams improvising. Both are pushed to the limit in that scene so you can imagine how much the movie struggles to stay on its feet afterward.

Even though the movie is openly absurd, the biggest kicker for me was its desperate attempt to include the all too familiar moral of someone recognizing the importance of family. Huh? Dan barely knows Vicki. He has never had kids before. Then suddenly she walks into his life and now Dan decides that he needs to be a responsible father? At one point, Vicki and the children express disappointment in Dan for his decision to visit Japan to help his business instead of taking the children to the park. Excuse me Vicki, but who are you to judge? It's awfully selfish to expect Dan to change his whole life around just because you show up uninvited. You're lucky he even gave you the two week babysitting duty. If any viewers can find it within themselves to forgive this phony lesson of the week, then they should have no problem enjoying this movie.

Old Dogs is basically a lazy film that somehow worked by accident. Travolta and Williams have good enough chemistry. The gags are uninspired but are sold so well that you can't help but be at least slightly entertained by them. And kudos to Seth Green for trying so hard to make that gorilla scene funny.

Judging from the critics' consensus, I am in danger of losing credibility for even suggesting that this movie shouldn't be entirely dismissed. My conscience wanted to rate it a four. My generous side wanted to rate it a six. The generous side won this time. And it owes that victory to my mother who submitted the wisest opinion of our viewing party.

"That certainly wasn't a great film but it was good for the occasion."

If you the viewer can figure out that right occasion, give Old Dogs a rental and prepare yourself to act immature.

Rating: 6

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