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The Shaggy Dog (Disney, PG)

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What follows is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from a Disney film of this nature.

 

Tim Allen has forged a film career out of making family films that actually try to entertain audiences of all ages, not just those under ten. Some of these films have been successful in their efforts (Galaxy Quest), others not so much (Joe Somebody). Unfortunately Allen’s latest film, Disney’s third remake of The Shaggy Dog, falls into the latter category.

Allen plays Dave Douglas, a family man and assistant district attorney, who has become more concerned with accelerating his career than spending time with his wife and kids. Dave’s latest case has him prosecuting Justin Forrester (Joshua Leonard), a teacher who set fire to the Grant and Strictland research facility to protest the lab’s unsafe experiments on animals. The lab at Grant and Strictland is run by the evil Dr. Kozak (Robert Downey Jr.) who, despite claims to the contrary, does in fact run lab experiments on animals. Kozak’s latest experiment involves Shaggy, a 300-year-old sheep dog from Tibet, that Kozak believes holds the key to the fountain of youth (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you read that correctly). As luck would have it, Shaggy also has a knack for escape, and is able to leave the lab and find refuge with Dave’s son and daughter, who contrary to their father are animal advocates.

Dave’s life gets even more complicated when, after trying to convince his family that they have no place in their home for a dog, he is bitten by Shaggy. After that, for reasons that are never really explained, Dave begins to turn into a sheep dog. The transformation is subtle; Dave starts by lapping up his coffee and cereal in the morning, and after spending the rest of the day chasing cars and Frisbees he morphs into a dog completely (think of it like The Fly for kids).

What follows is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from a Disney film of this nature. Dave soon comes to realize that Grant and Strictland are the real bad guys, not Justin (apparently arson is appropriate if you have noble motives at heart). There is of course an obligatory chase scene scored to “Who Let the Dogs Out,” and the filmmakers even managed to squeeze a Toy Story reference in. But other than Allen’s physical comedy during Doug’s transformation, there’s really little else new in the film. It’s a shame too; the supporting cast of Downey, Kristen Davis as Dave’s wife, and Craig Kilborn as an annoying neighbor gave the film the potential to entertain the parents and older siblings of the crowd that will inevitably wind up escorting younger kids to the film.

To its credit, Shaggy Dog doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not, and Allen and company will no doubt keep the film’s target audience of ten and under crowd entertained. But it would have been nice if the filmmakers had thrown a bone to anyone else seeing the film.

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