On occasion there will be a film that gets steamrolled by the critical mass and it really shouldn’t be. On a rare occasion it will be a film that is actually quite good, more often than not it will just be a decent film that’s just very harshly thrashed about and doesn’t really deserve it. Old Dogs falls into the latter category.
Don’t misunderstand me – the film isn’t great. It’s passable and ultimately disposable entertainment but for what it was, a simple family comedy, it’s fine. Most important, considering that it’s a comedy, I laughed quite a bit. The critical reaction I am sure are coming in response to things within the tale that are cliché like getting caught in the animal enclosure, the overly-aggressive game of ultimate Frisbee, being strapped to a jet pack, playing tea, the unwilling babysitter and other conventions. However, they are put together interestingly and cut together quickly and the execution of all these things you’ve seen is above average and typically humorous.
The one part of the film that was wholly unsatisfying was when Dan (Robin Williams) was being taught how to play by a friend of Charlie’s (John Travolta). The friend is played by the late Bernie Mac which makes you wonder how long this film has been in the can. This is the most difficult and preposterous part where Williams is turned into a “human puppet” so he can play with his daughter, thankfully the mechanism breaks and Williams is allowed to take the scene over as his normal charming self.
One also need not be concerned with pacing in this film as the bulk of the story is almost immediately taken on. You witness the usual formula for Dan and Charlie at a pitch, this usually involves Charlie telling one embarrassing story about Dan and softening up the client. What is unexpected is that this story which is cut to with frenetic pace actually factors into the plot so almost immediately there is pertinent information conveyed.
This being a Disney film there is the compulsory family content aside from the silliness. In this case it was Dan trying to connect and reconnect with his kids. It was surprisingly rather effective and really what held the story together. There’s certainly nothing new under the sun in this film but it a film that achieves its modest goals and one can’t fault it for that. There is also commitment from all involved to their roles especially in the smaller roles played by Seth Green and Justin Long.
The film actually manages a few sight gags, which is rare, after Dan and Charlie take the wrong medications and while some of the CG went a bit far the mesmerized images were rather humorous as was the scenario.
Should family fare over the next few weeks prove insufficient you should give this a chance. It’s a funny little movie with something for everyone.