Saturday, July 16, 2011

Spark Of Charm Overwhelmed By Dumb Jokes, Old Dogs Is The Disappointment You've Heard It Is!

The Good: One or two moments I smiled at.
The Bad: Utterly misuses the talents of Robin Williams, Largely unfunny, Predictable character arc, Underdeveloped characters.
The Basics: Old Dogs is a terrible movie that is not funny and not worth seeing free for anyone, much less fans of Robin Williams or John Travolta.

Lately, it seems like I have been rediscovering a love for the works of Robin Williams. My wife sat me down recently and we watched Bicentennial Man (reviewed here!) and I was blown away. The same cannot be said for Old Dogs, at least, not in a positive fashion. Old Dogs is a Robin Williams and John Travolta vehicle that comes to so many abrupt stops that one has to wonder why Disney even bothered making it. It is hard to even recall what was supposed to be funny in this movie. For those who have seen the preview trailer, all of the best jokes are in the trailer and, unfortunately, the movie that connects those random jokes is not much of a film.

Old Dogs is a formula buddy piece that has two characters who are such unlikely friends that the only place the friendship works is in the contrived mind of the two writers who made this film. Director Walt Becker is trapped with a lame script to try to make something of and while he does one or two visually interesting things, the film does not hold up in any cohesive way. What isn't cliche in Old Dogs is just not funny, making for a particularly troublesome ninety minutes.

Charlie and Dan are best friends who run a sports marketing firm. They are working to close an international deal which will launch them from superstar sports personalities into something even larger. Charlie has a tendency to embarrass Dan with personal stories to break the ice while meeting with the Japanese businessmen, but Dan keeps it together and has a sense of professionalism which makes him able to relate to the Japanese investors and close the deal. But there is a codicil; the businessmen want a representative to come to Tokyo to liaise. The men send Craig. At the same time, Vicki, Dan's lost love comes back into his life, with two children who are his from their one-night stand seven years prior.

As Vicki goes through a brief stint in prison, Dan tries to get to know Zack and Emily, his children. Because he lives in a "no children" apartment complex, Dan has to move in with Charlie. After kidproofing Charlie's house, Craig goes AWOL in Tokyo and the men have to scramble to try to save the deal. Unfortunately, the deal is hampered by Dan's desire to do things with his children and pill swaps that leave the men in ridiculous positions.

Old Dogs is hard to talk about, in terms of plot, more than that because there truly isn't much more to the film. The pill swapping is a pretty big part of the movie and outside that, it's largely Dan spending time with his children and realizing that he can't be everything to Zach and Emily AND work the business. But the pill swapping seems like a pretty generic comedic conceit these days, like reading all of the side effects to a medicine (which happens in the film) can be done ironically. The problem is, that large chunk of the movie - which results in many groins getting hit with golf balls - doesn't add anything to the rest of the flick and the net result is that there are long chunks of the movie which are either faux-sentimental father-child moments or ridiculous jokes that could be put into virtually any other movie.

On the character front, Old Dogs is an absolute flop because the characters aren't interesting or well-defined in any way. Charlie is supposed to be a lady's man, but he is utterly un-charming and, as played by John Travolta, has utterly no on-screen chemistry with the translator he keeps hitting on, Amanda (played by Lori Loughlin). Dan is supposed to be an uptight guy who never does anything shocking, save his abrupt marriage and annulment with Vicki four years prior, but he has a lot of mannerisms which are more quirky and do not lend themselves to the cold, efficient character he is supposed to have. Moreover, how Charlie got to the successful place he did is completely a mystery. In other words, Old Dogs seems thrown together without any sense of reason, rationality, or attempt to create a viable world for the viewer.

The real disappointment beyond all that, other than me having to write about it, is that neither Robin Williams and John Travolta are working at the top of their game. They are not very funny and Williams' humor amounts to little more than talking fast and screwing up his face occasionally. This is more than Travolta has. He's homogeneously unfunny with no tool for humor that passes itself as recognizable. Seth Green has a little fun, but is not enough even to carry his few scenes.

Old Dogs is a big failure for Disney and the only larger comment I can make on it is this: for years Terry Gilliam has been shopping around a feature film that would star Robin Williams and Johnny Depp. He's consistently gotten the money he needs overseas for the film, but he cannot get the twenty million dollars to make the movie. That stymied me. How can a movie with Williams and Depp not raise $20 million dollars?! Old Dogs is the best argument against throwing money at any project with Williams. And it pains me to write that.

For other Disney live-action works, please check out my reviews of:
Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Tron: Legacy
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
Alice In Wonderland
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
The Princess Diaries


For other movie reviews, check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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