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Clueless-dad comedy is forgettable family fluff.
what parents need to know
what families can talk about
Tomatometer®reviews counted: 2see all Old Dogs reviews
Top Critic Reviews
Fresh: Those expecting new tricks or even vaguely inventive laughs from Old Dogs or its two waning stars should heed the obvious cliche.
- Giles Hardie, smh.com.au, Thursday, June 24, 2010
Rotten: Featuring a mixed-up-medication gag, a guy-in-a-gorilla-suit gag and a suntan-gone-wrong gag...well, you begin to understand the level of inspiration that went into the execution of the film.
- Simon Foster, sbs.com.au, Monday, August 9, 2010
"If I'm gonna be an old dad, you're gonna be Uncle Charlie. We can do this." A lot has been made regarding family films like Where the Wild Things Are, which are perceived as too mature for little kids. The exact inverse applies to Old Dogs; a film too stupid and infantile for anyone able to speak in full sentences. A strong cast may be attached to the flick, but the script is laboured, stale, obvious and unable to serve the actors. The humour is forced and obvious, while the attempts at dramatic moments are as well-executed as Will Ferrell doing Shakespeare. The side effects of enduring the mawkish melodrama of the film include retching and uncontrollable eyeball-rolling. Imagine a season's worth of plot devices from a generic television sitcom crammed into 85 excruciating minutes served with a side-order of clichs, and you have Old Dogs. Filmed in 2007, it has the feel of a movie that's been reworked and reordered a dozen times until only a pure goof-and-sentiment experience remains...which fails at both goals. The two titular "old dogs" are lifelong friends and business partners Charlie (Travolta) and Dan (Williams), who are on the verge of closing the deal of their careers with a Japanese firm. Things change for the duo, however, when Dan's old flame Vicki (Preston) resurfaces. Nearly nine years prior, Dan married Vicki on a drunken impulse, and the marriage was annulled the next day. The reason for Vicki showing up all these years later is to reveal that Dan is the father of her twins, and that she's facing a two-week stint in gaol for a political protest. While Vicki is doing time, Dan volunteers to look after the two kids, even though he's incompetent when it comes to handling kids, and he's more concerned with his job. Of course, this just sets up the real crux of the story - the part teaching us that family is everything, not business. Every narrative beat from here on in is so formulaic and by-the-numbers that the screenwriters should be ashamed. A pall hangs over Old Dogs. It's officially Bernie Mac's final film, and his death resulted in the film's opening being delayed. This film is also the last film John Travolta starred in before his son, Jett, tragically died; further delaying the film's release. As a matter of fact, Jett is the only member of the Travolta clan not to have a role in Old Dogs. John's wife, Kelly Preston, plays Vicki, while their daughter, Ella Bleu, is one of the kids. For the entire duration of Old Dogs, the objective is merely to put the hapless leads in humiliating situations and beat them senseless with their own cluelessness. This is terrible episodic filmmaking which expires immediately, and it's glumly orchestrated by Becker who is unable to add any sense of personality to the flick. Instead, he leans on colourful cameos (Matt Dillon, Justin Long, Luis Guzman, Amy Sedaris, Dax Shepard and Rita Wilson all appear for no good reason), unfunny pratfalls and obvious jokes. The situations are always awkward and predictable, accentuated with an expected procession of flatulence and urine humour, topped off with some genital trauma and stale jokes which re-emerge far too many times (Dan and Charlie are continuously mistaken as grandparents). A soul is the last thing the film should be concerned about, as unfunny jokes and comedic situations demand top priority. The convoluted plot set-up is derivative and contrived, the characters are barely tolerable, and the film's main gags (heeeelarious set-pieces involving dying pups, hands getting caught in a car boot, drug trips, Asian stereotyping, homosexual innuendo, and other stuff) are stranded in a PG-rated wasteland in which laughs and good taste are a rarity. As an example of how predictable the set-pieces are: Dan enters a tanning booth, an operational mishap occurs (which cannot be rectified until too late, as Charlie is flirting with the attendant) and Dan ends up browner than an M&M. Funny? No. Predictable? Definitely. Also, when Charlie and Dan discuss their complicated regime of pills and the respective side-effects, one can be sure that within minutes they'll swallow the wrong pills, leading to an assortment of unfunny hijinks. Everyone involved in the film seemed to believe only the broadest, most overt sense of humour will get laughs, and they'll be damned if you want anything else. Strangely, some of these moments were funny in the trailer (at least in this reviewer's humble opinion), but in the personality-less full movie, there's no longer a comedic punch to them. Chief among the most tragic things about Old Dogs is the way it provokes us to reflect upon how far Robin Williams has fallen. Once one of the funniest actors in Hollywood (who also showed strong dramatic chops, particularly in Good Will Hunting for which he earned an Oscar), Williams has been reduced to overplaying obvious jokes. Both Williams and John Travolta are talented, but here they simply push and pull their performances so hard that they nearly pass out from exhaustion. They leer and grimace on cue, do bad physical comedy at a moment's notice, and burst out into exaggerated laughter when required. They're never given the chance to present Dan and Charlie as anything more than caricatures. It's easy to see why Travolta was attracted to the movie, since the involvement of his wife and daughter allowed him to spend time with the family, but an unreleased home movie would've been a better, cheaper and less harmful alternative. Although there are a few gags worth a smile or a giggle, Old Dogs, taken as a whole, is a lousy mess of a motion picture. It's unfortunate, too, as there's something more intelligent beneath the surface. The take, however, is the wrong one; one that opts for the easiest way out. Instead of a sweet, affecting comedy about the growing disconnect between parents and their kids, Old Dogs is an exercise in rote life lessons and obvious moral conjecture. It's also pretty drab and boring.
- PvtCaboose91, Friday, April 30, 2010