Old Dogs: Bad dog! Bad!

Movie:Old Dogs
Company:Tapestry Films
Director:Walt Becker
Starring:John Travolta
Robin Williams
Kelly Preston
Seth Green
Matt Dillon
Bernie Mac

        “Old Dogs” offers up an impressive slate of proven talent: John Travolta, Robin Williams, Seth Green, Matt Dillon, and Bernie Mac. Unfortunately, the behind the scenes talents of writing, directing, and editing just did not deliver. I know with a Disney family offering that there is going to be some simplification of themes and humor for the benefit a younger audience. However, this is no reason for a story which at times approaches maudlin. Nor is it an explanation for amateurish gags or inconsistent focus. Nor is it an excuse for not developing any of these actors to their full potential. And while it was nice to see Bernie Mac in his last roll, it was disappointing to see that he wasn't his usual funny, intense, edgy self. After thoroughly enjoying “Wild Hogs”, I expected a bit more of Walt Becker. Maybe the studio torpedoed the project. It certainly felt rushed.

        The story of "Old Dogs" is fairly stock. Robin Williams is Dan, a successful businessman about to land a major deal when he discovers that he's the father of two kids, fraternal twins, seven years old. The kids end up in his care for two weeks during which he has to learn how to be a dad. John Travolta is Charlie, Dan's business partner who takes up the “goofy uncle” role. Dan, after too long of a story arch, messes up the business deal, his relationship with his kids, and his friendship with Charlie. He then has to rush before the end credits to set things right.

        True to form of a movie with apparent deficiencies like these, “Old Dogs” slips in some unwelcome message. Kelley Preston is Vicki, Dan's old girlfriend who shows up with kids in tow. She leaves them with Dan because she has to do a two week bid in county prison about which the kids are unaware. Wait, Mom going to county prison in a family film? Well, yes, for a good cause. It seems that she chained herself to a bulldozer to stop the construction of an evil corporation which, naturally, was going to dump toxic waste in the stream next to where the kids play. But wait, there's more. Matt Dillon is Barry, the Hollywood stereotype of the homophobic, gun nut, scout leader. He waxes fascistic about being “a patriot” and he imparts his wisdom that guns are the path to “a chest full of merit badges”. That's right, kids, “Patriotism, scouting, guns, and corporations... bad. Chaining yourself to a bulldozer... good”. I did find it interesting, however, that the word “patriot” was used in Matt Dillon's/Barry's rant. My guess is that the Tea Party Movement is under someone's skin in old Hollywoodland.

        Apart from the bad marks which “Old Dogs” earns for it's typical Hollywood treatment of Left and Right, it's just not a very good movie. For a time better spent with your kids, take them and your old dog to the park.

Hollywood, STFU Rating: 2.5 Hammer and Sickles