01/04/2006. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
Tim Allen's latest flea-bitten family fare fluff is indeed a dog-both literally and figuratively, says Frank. In Walt Disney's klutzy canine comedy The Shaggy Dog, this gimmicky retread is another Allen-oriented vehicle that's being cranked out but protected under the convenient guise of another innocuous Disney ditty.
The Shaggy Dog. Buena Vista Pictures - 2006.
Tim Allen's latest flea-bitten family fare fluff is indeed a dog - both literally and figuratively. In Walt Disney's klutzy canine comedy The Shaggy Dog, this gimmicky retread is another Allen-oriented vehicle that's being cranked out but protected under the convenient guise of another innocuous Disney ditty.
Plus, this infantile tail-wagging fantasy about a deputy district attorney who randomly turns into a pesky four-legged hairball is the kind of safe tripe that Allen feels compelled to unleash upon the public. In a nutshell, this kiddie-coated comedy is simply pointless and doggedly inconsequential.
Of course 2006's The Shaggy Dog is an updated remake of one of Disney's most treasures farces. Director Brian Robbins wants this cutesy affair to assume its goofy charm while dipping his toes into a pool of pseudo-sentimentality about animal testing. Overall, the humour feels relentlessly forced and this silly-minded romp will undoubtedly entertain two-year olds while annoying others.
With Allen constantly mugging ad nauseam and an array of CGI cosy creatures coming to life, The Shaggy Dog is a disjointed and mindless chuckler that never quite fulfils its near 100-minute running time.
Allen portrays Dave Douglas, a tireless deputy district attorney whose job is to prosecute a popular high school instructor (Joshua Leonard) after he burns down a research lab. Dave's daughter Carla (Zena Grey) stands by her teacher while having reservations about her father's methods in bringing charges against the heralded school mentor. Alertly, Carla had rescued one of the test animals that is a sheepdog. However, little does the high schooler realize is that the magical mutt is actually a Tibetan spirit of some sort.
Predictably, the put-upon Dave and the mystical pooch don't exactly see eye to eye in terms of getting along. In fact, the dog bites Dave on the hand thus causing him a strange transformation. So what's the result of this so-called transformation? It turns out that Dave has this uncanny ability to morph into his hairy visitor's likeness-a shaggy sheepdog. Hence, Dave will experience his dog day afternoons doing all kinds of mischief such as chasing cats, knocking over the elderly, lifting his leg to relieve himself (while in human form), scratching feverishly, licking faces, etc.
As the beleaguered Dave switches bodies from human to canine and vice versa, resident mad scientist Kozak (Robert Downey, Jr.) diligently plots to coral the four-legged fiend in order to secure the secrets of the animal's resiliency as an eternal life form. The madness ensues as Dave goes through the hectic motions as a confusing man-beast while bystanders such as his patient wife (Kristen Davis) and puzzled working associate (Danny Glover) observe the zany escapades.
Interestingly, the sketchy slapstick behind The Shaggy Dog doesn't have the attentive lustre of a good-natured nutty narrative. Instead, this toothless dud strains for empty laughs. Although this vehicle wants to appear as a wholesome and kid-friendly spectacle, Robbins never really establishes a fresh fun-filled tone where regrettably the movie routinely takes on the realm of a third-rate funny bone tickler for undiscriminating tykes.
As for Allen, his dim-witted performance is made up of frantic physical gestures, stale sight gags and monotonous attempts at feel-good witticisms. Inexplicably, it took a handful of screenwriters to concoct this cockeyed-clawed caper about a floppy-eared Allen and the anaemic chaos that he creates. The supporting players are lost in the shuffle and should have escaped this juvenile travesty. As the neglected spouse, Davis shows no flash when being confronted by on-screen hubby Allen's goofball stunts. And it's a mystery as to why Glover strolls around drolly in such a forgettable kiddy-pleaser. Only Downey, Jr. comes off as mildly tolerable as the movie's colourful villain.
Just when a few ambitious movie studios were ushering out some desirable high concept live action family fare and competitive animated features, drippy offerings such as The Shaggy Dog takes two steps backward in the genre of progressive kiddie comedy. It doesn't take much to figure out why Allen and his company belong in the doghouse in reference to this flimsy faux pas-or shall we say faux paw?
(c) Frank Ochieng 2006