From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Friday, November 20, 2009

Old Dogs - C

Rated PG for some mild rude humor, 90 minutes

"Old Dogs" offers nothing new: same 'ol dumb, silly fun

The new Disney comedy "Old Dogs" starring Robin Williams and John Travolta is nothing new, especially if you've seen the trailers for the film, or any other Disney comedy in the last 10 years, for that matter. Williams and Travolta make for a pleasant comedic team in an otherwise forgettably silly, hit-or-miss film that should please the popcorn movie-going masses this holiday season.

Two best friends and business partners -- unlucky-in-love divorcee Dan (Williams) and the other a fun-loving bachelor Charlie (Travolta) -- have their lives turned upside down when a former flame of Dan's (Kelly Preston) shows up and they’re unexpectedly charged with the care of his children, 7-year old twins (Conner Rayburn and Ella Bleu Travolta) all while on the verge of the biggest business deal of their lives. The not-so-kid-savvy bachelors stumble in their efforts to take care of the twins, leading to one debacle after another, and perhaps to a new-found understanding of what’s really important in life.

Lacking any sort of fresh comedic sensibility, "Old Dogs" is mildly amusing and slightly entertaining at best but has an air of sadness stemming from its casting and the fact it features Bernie Mac's last screen role. Travolta's wife Preston plays Williams love interest, while one of the kids is Preston and Travolta's real-life daughter Ella Bleu, which makes for a nice family affair until you remember their son Jett's unexpected and tragic death since the film was completed. Even more unfortunate is that "Old Dogs" will be remembered as Mac's last screen role, sad given the fact that his very brief role in it isn't very good or all that funny.

It's not all Mac's fault, though, as the movie lacks many laugh-out loud moments, peppered with only a few mildly amusing gags. It really comes down to the star pairing of Travolta and Williams to carry all of this and while they work well together, their lazy, collect-a-check performances bring to light the worst parts of "Old Dogs": the lousy direction from "Wild Hogs" director David Becker and the maudlin, predictable script that Disney so likes to churn out these days. It's all safe, silly and suitable fun for the family, though you can't help wonder why these characters are so dumb - from mixing up medication to excessive tanning to breaking and entering - all of which seems like filler to pad an already weak story.

With that in mind, it's also easy to see why they also packed "Old Dogs" with so many cameos at every turn, a stunt casting trick that ends up a mixed bag here. They range from sharp (comedian Amy Sedaris is onscreen for less than a minute and still earns a laugh) to moderately amusing (Rita Wilson as a cross-eyed hand model) to plain unfunny (Matt Dillon and Justin Long as camp counselors) to completely wasted (Ann-Margaret, appearing drunk). All that's missing is a cameo from Tim Allen, who's made a decent living by appearing in numerous middling Disney films over the years, a route that Travolta himself seems to be taking as well, with a forthcoming "Wild Hogs" sequel.

Even with this, "Old Dogs" isn't a complete waste of time. Seth Green adds some goofy energy as their co-worker (and the scenes with a gorilla you've seen in the trailers is one of the more memorable bits), and you can impress your friends by answering a trivia question as to what's happened to Lori Loughlin, one of the co-stars of the '80s sitcom "Full House," appearing here briefly as Travolta's love interest.

Take a couple of big movie stars past their prime, add a few gags, insert a few tears and wrap it up, put a falsely nice happy-ending bow on it and you have another mediocre Disney package. "Old Dogs" is not completely awful but then it could've been much, much better given the talent.