A WALK DOWN NOSTALGIA LANE REVIEW: “The Shaggy Dog” stars Tim Allen (Toy Story, Home Improvement [TV series]), Kristin Davis (Sex and the City [TV series], Deck the Halls), Zena Grey (Snow Day, In Good Company), Spencer Breslin (The Cat in the Hat , The Happening ), Danny Glover (Predator 2, Jumanji: The Next Level), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes ), Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project, Togetherness [TV series]), Philip Baker Hall (Bruce Almighty, Rush Hour ), Craig Kilborn (The Benchwarmers, Old School), Bess Wohl (Flightplan, Must Love Dogs), Jarrad Paul (Yes Man, Bewitched ), Jane Curtin (3rd Rock from the Sun [TV series], Coneheads), and Rhea Seahorn (Better Call Saul [TV series], Whitney [TV series]). It is directed by Brian Robbins (Good Burger, Norbit) and written by Cormac Wibberley (National Treasure, Bad Boys II), Marianne Wibberley (Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, The 6th Day), Geoff Rodkey (RV, Daddy Day Care), Jack Amiel (The Knick [TV series], Big Miracle), and Michael Begler (Raising Helen, The Prince and Me).
Big-time lawyer Dave Douglas (Allen) has everything going his way in life, until he is suddenly turned into a sheepdog after being bit by a dog with the gift of immortality.
“Ow, he bit me!” The amount of times my brother and I would quote that insignificant line are numerous. Really, it all fell to the delivery by one Tim Allen, who seemed to have a contract with Disney at the time (what with all the family flicks he was starring in). This go-around, he turns into a sheepdog, and the results? Well… I’d say the bark is worse than the bite.
I was quite nervous in preparing to watch this film. This nostalgia lane series has been pretty unforgiving in its line-up, and I was anticipating yet another flimsy, poorly executed family flick that is more agonizing than fun to watch. Instead, I received something decent. Which I would deem a compliment when considering this remake (I mean, look at the creepy poster).
“The Shaggy Dog” plays out like your usual early 2000’s family film. The main guy is absent-minded of those around him, and it will take a crazy external force to change his mind. Our high concept for this one is the main character turns into a sheepdog. Wild stuff, right? I guess. Tim Allen’s voice is iconic, and pretty much tied to that of Buzz Lightyear. Hearing him voice a sheepdog proved to be funny, but I would be lying if I wasn’t reminded of our favorite space toy (they even have him say “to infinite and beyond” in this). At the very least, we are presented some fun, entertaining sequences in which Allen displays dog-like qualities as a man; he pulls it off hilariously, with my favorite moments being him chasing a cat and catching a frisbee. Clearly, the guy shoulders the weight of this average Disney picture, and I give him mad props for coming in and livening up the script.
Speaking of which, have you seen the writing credits on this? I was only listing the official screenwriters IMDb deemed on their site; apparently, there’s a few more who wrote earlier drafts. When you watch this movie, it’s hard to believe that it took such a large writing staff to pen it. The conflict is simple, as is the execution. We can predict what our lead will have to learn and it’s more so a matter of what we can do for fun in the meantime. So… why all the writers? I’m not sure, but I’d be curious to find out. Almost all of the ones attached to this project have written some childhood favorites of mine, and there are certainly some good moments to gleam from this story. It’s just not the most memorable. Allen’s character of Doug is absent in his family due to his obsession with his job. However, I never really see him at work. There’s a few courtroom scenes in this, but the issue lies more so in Doug’s inability to listen or clue in to what’s going on in his family. This is okay, but when the lesson he learns deals primarily with focusing on his job too much, that can make things a bit murkier. Not to mention the execution of him getting around as Shaggy. How his family quickly accepted him becoming a dog is quite humorous, though I understand that you have to move the plot along.
There’s a lot of star talent in this. At least from what I remember. Robert Downey Jr., Kristin Davis, Spencer Breslin (who has acted alongside Allen in so many Disney flicks), Philip Baker Hall, and even Rhea Seahorn, who I took notice of with her role of Kim Wexler on “Better Call Saul.” It was surprising to see her in this, still working in the realm of law (though a little younger). Everyone does well with the tone captured in this. Downey Jr. played an interesting villain of sorts; he teetered the line of over-acting often, but then again there were a lot of hammed up performances (primarily from the whole villain troupe). As I said before, it was Allen who shined, as his humor was unmatched. You gotta love seeing the guy in a stolen lab coat, driving down the highway with a bunch of lab experiment animals who all have dog DNA. Talk about an iconic image.
When all is said and done, “The Shaggy Dog” is an alright family film. It surpassed my low expectations, mainly due to the strong performance given by Tim Allen, who makes all the wackiness of this story fun. It follows your typical beats, and nothing is really surprising within the story and moral that is to be learned, but at the very least I was left entertained (who could not laugh at a dog trying to bark “I love you”?). If you have kids and they want something to watch (and you want to subject them to some early 2000’s material) this pick isn’t too shaggy… er, shabby. FINAL SCORE: 70%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: