Movie Review: ‘Old Dogs’ should be euthanized

25 Nov

November 25th, 2009–

 Let it never be said that one-note Robin Williams comedies aren’t thought provoking. All through Old Dogs, which also unfortunately snares Mr. John Travolta, I sat there thinking; who is this movie for anyway? As if in answer, there came peals of middle aged laughter everytime Williams mewled like a child, or Travolta heaved himself in the direction of a cake or a chicken leg. When the dog uncontrollably pisses on the floor I think it generated enough titilation from the audience they might have done the same. No matter, this is an offense on almost nearly every level. Last week I tore apart New Moon, and I think I owe Twilight fans just a smidgen of an apology. Your movie isn’t the worst of the year. Nope. Not even close. Meet Old Dogs. The only trick they should be taught is how to disappear.

Directed by Walt Becker, responsible for Wild Hogs and possibly Disney’s crown prince of family film apocalypse, this newest middle aged insult features Williams and Travolta as two men who grew up together, opened a sport-themed business venture and are still up to their lame, half-baked antics decades and decades later. In a horribly mismanaged scene where Travolta actually relates the central backstory to a table of guffawing Japanese businessmen (really did you do ANY research on this?), the audience learns that Williams shacked up with Kelly Preston and some 7 years later he finds out he has kids. As a result of more eye-assaulting contrivances, Williams has to watch them for two weeks while she is in…jail. Yes, jail. Don’t ask and I won’t explain.

Of course that is the set-up for scenes where two older guys try and give the kids a good time, get mistaken over and over again for being gay, test the limits of their friendship, the actual father gets to contemplate whether business or family mean more, and the single guy gets to think on what he might be missing. Perfect, except Old Dogs give you so much, much, much less for your value. For starters, all that crap I just wrote; forget it, because although it happens it can’t even be remotely bothered to occur with an ounce of feeling. One of the most canned film scores of recent memory will bellow everytime something ‘meaningful’ happens and Williams’ face will start sagging ridiculously to one side, preempting the waterworks. Then, the movie throws one listless, wacky scene after another at us.

Travolta and Williams take the kids to a scout camp run by Matt Dillon and frequented by what looks like a paedophile played by Justin Long. Dillon and Long get off easy; they are in the film for mere minutes. Seth Green, wearing so much make-up and looking so stilted that a less observant eye might think this is Mannequin 3, is involved in all the worst bits. He goes to Japan but forgets his work and becomes an karaoke legend. Later, he is accosted by a silver-back gorilla which holds him in a vice-like grip while he sings easy listening dirges. Honestly, it’s probably the only scene that has an ounce of anything approaching humor and that’s mostly just pure cynical sneering at the downfall of Green who maybe, once, in a universe far, far way, coulda been a contender.   

It isn’t a stretch to say I hated Old Dogs, although it will probably go down far easier for a less assuming audience. For me, this is all the worst bits of other movies plowed together and compiled without an ounce of style, coherence, or ingenuity. Travolta and Williams may miss these days more often than they hit, but the two men are still capable of great things. Watch Williams in World’s Greatest Dad and see a performance that is actually poignant and affecting, while still hitting those dark comic notes he was known for in his early career. Travolta did a great turn in Hairspray back in 2007, but he is firmly entrenched in big, dopey manic guy mode here.

In fact, Williams, usually the crazy screamer, is muted in comparison. The two men could have done wonders with a similar script that took the parenting angle and their friendship seriously. The child actors honestly looked like they have been fed tranquilizers with their afternoon sphagettios. Kelly Preston and Rita Wilson are purely embarrasing. If I leave Seth Green’s name out of the rest of this review, he will probably thank me. Sorry for featuring you in the pic atop, Seth, but it had to be done.

So there it is. No way sir. Unless you want to give your relatives after-dinner indigestion or help contribute another 10 dollars to the downfall of American comedy, give Old Dogs a pass. There is nothing else that needs to be said, except to relate one more scene. At nearly the halfpoint of the movie, Williams laments that he can’t relate properly to his children; doesn’t know how to play and imagine with them. Travolta remarks he knows the perfect person and they find a puppeteer. When they get there, the guy is revealed to be Bernie Mac (yes, that one, RIP) and I felt like I had drifted off to sleep and was seeing a different, odder movie altogether. Mac has invented a human puppet suit that allows the wearer to be controlled by another party elsewhere.

So, in order to help Williams play tea party with his daughter, Travolta controls his every movement. There are morbidly terrifying sequences of Williams trouncing about mechanically in tights as Travolta tries to steer him into the proper responses. Mac just smiles cooly and collects his paycheck. If only he had known it would have been one of his last. The entire scene should have been scrapped, but I guess I’m being unfair by singling out its presence in a movie that should have been dropped altogether.

Old Dogs sits high upon the dungheap of pathetic family entertainments, but does it really matter? Williams and Travolta have sold worse to willing audiences. If this one cleans up at the box office after New Moon, I might have to turn in my ‘optimisim in humanity’ card. In the chance it does, may I suggest the title of your next movie, Walt? Angry Blogs.

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24 Responses to “Movie Review: ‘Old Dogs’ should be euthanized”

  1. xiphos0311 November 25, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    What’s this have to do with tweenlight? hehehehe…

  2. xiphos0311 November 25, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    okay serious statement or as serious as I get. Did anybody really expect this to be any good? When was the last time Scientology boy and the paycheck collector did something even remotely interesting? Also if you promote a movie as coming from the director of Wild Hogs haven’t you already given up?

  3. Jarv November 25, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    Williams’ number one cinema atrocity is still Father’s Day. Where he raps in german proving once and for all what a complete and utter cunt he is

    • Bartleby November 25, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

      Jarv, Father’s Day is exactly the movie this one reminded me of. In truth, this one might be worse overall, although Williams himself is far less annoying. I also noticed that this one plays like ‘buffet of annoying young comedic actors’ with Justin Long (I can tolerate him better than the rest), Dax Shepherd and Seth Green all having ‘key’ sequences. Its barely a freaking movie and more like an advertisement for male menopause.

  4. koutchboom November 25, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    Not worse then Year One. Not no way not no how.

  5. koutchboom November 25, 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    Williams did make Worlds Best Dad recently. Written and Directed by Bobcat, I really liked Bobcat’s first movie, Sleeping Dogs Lie. Worlds Best Dad looks to be very good. Comes out on dvd soon. He’s not totally dead inside.

  6. Bartleby November 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    I gave him credit for WGD in the review, Koutch. It’s a good movie and he was good in it.

  7. koutchboom November 25, 2009 at 2:56 pm #

    He goes to Japan but forgets his work and becomes an karaoke legend. Hahahahahahaha that actually sounds funny, I just want a movie on that. I keep reading this “opened a sport-themed business venture” in reviews? What is that? They have a sports bar or something? Or do they just say sport-themed business venture and never explain it?

  8. koutchboom November 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    This falls under the Siskel, I’d rather see a movie about them making the movie then the actual movie category I’m pretty sure.

    • Bartleby November 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

      Siskels’ statement was even better than that. It was “I’d rather see a docu of the same actors having lunch than watch the actual movie”

  9. Bartleby November 25, 2009 at 2:59 pm #

    No, it’s like they have a business where they sell sports related utilities or soemthing….you keep seeing them pose with all these sports items, and you see magazine covers, and a large part of the movie is given over to a big merger they are trying to coordinate, but honestly, the script never bothers to explain what it is exactly that made them so big.

    Actually, that karaoke part is mostly what I inferred from a quick five second scene where they ask “Hey, where did Seth go(or whatever his characters name is) and you just seem him in a flash on stage singing karaoke. He’s back later and pretends like it never happened.

    • koutchboom November 25, 2009 at 3:02 pm #

      Yeah thats what I figured about that scene. It would be a funny sort of spoof of something like Lost In Translation or something, if done by the right person.

  10. goregirl November 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    This isn’t my cup o’tea and this cast doesn’t appeal to me at all. But that said, even the trailer for this film is painfully unfunny!

    • Bartleby November 25, 2009 at 3:01 pm #

      Yea, this is one of those ‘take one for the team’ things. Didn’t pay for it. Ninja Assassin, House of the Devil and Fantastic Fox coming in a few. Precious too if I get the time to write it up. Just wanted to get this out of my system first.

  11. koutchboom November 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    I’m gonna pay for this, then sneek into Twilight 2: Die Harder.

  12. lord bronco November 30, 2009 at 12:53 am #

    True Story- I was hanging out in the Electronics Department of a local store (long story, not important).

    This older couple, let’s say late 50s is asking the clueless staff, “Where’s The Blu-Ray of ‘Old Dogs’?”.

    I can’t help myself.

    “That came out in theaters last week-it’s not on Blu-Ray. Not on blu-ray for at least for another 3 weeks.”

    They give me the stink eye, and the clerk says “I’ll check the new release back-stock”.

    Myself and the couple at this point are on uncomfortable terms, passing time before the back stock inventory can be properly assessed.

    I assess my options. Images roil in my frontal lobes. Endorphins flood my cardiovascular system.

    I look across at the season’s offerings of High Definition Liquid Crystal television sets.

    I bide my tongue to cease it’s depraved depredations. It is a cataclysmic conflict-caught in casual continuity.

    The brazen beast bleats rancorously ribald like a ravenous reject rapine in it’s insouciance.

    My body says, “It has Robin Williams in it.”

    The couple squint and square off solicitously.

    I flee the scene-headed back to the personal computing section-slipping and sliding serendipitously away from the chaotic confrontation.

    I lose track of time and place.

    There they are again.

    They are viewing 2800 Gigahertz Landline Telephone Caddies, which just so happen to be conveniently located centrally adjacent to the conveyor belt which disgorges current new cinematic credenzas.

    I alight from a Casio Keyboard couched climatically and inconveniently close to the dolorous delayed docking yard–carrying my person credibly and concisely away from capable continuing confrontation.

    Purchase in hand, the doors of the largish American Department store recede behind me in the distance as I head back to my convenient conveyance.

    Case Closed.

    But will it ever really be?

    Can’t Conclude.

    p.s.-Happy holidays to everybody at and in the COC. Alliteration-the gift that keeps on giving graciously! And the only one you are getting from me!

    • Bartleby November 30, 2009 at 8:09 am #

      that entire thing is funnier than Old Dogs. Thanks Bronco.

  13. M. Blitz December 15, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Sorry Robin, Johnny, but we gotta put you down.

    You, too, Seth.

  14. Casio Men January 5, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    I like Movie Review: ‘Old Dogs’ should be euthanized

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