Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: And the dog’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man in the moon. “When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then. You know we’ll have a good time then.”
For a while now, I’ve dreaded having to write about Old Dogs, the “comedy” staring John Travolta and Robin Williams that was recently released on DVD and Blu-ray.
In the film, Williams stars as Dan Rayburn, a sports marketing guru who turns to his best friend Charlie Reed (played by Travolta) for support when he learns he has seven-year old twin children and must watch them for a couple of weeks while their mother is in jail for environmental activism.
Being a Disney family-friendly comedy, audiences can expect plenty of high-concept mischief to occur when the life-long bachelors Rayburn and Reed watch the two highly precocious children.
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you right now: I had most of this review written before I even saw the movie.
I know that is a terrible thing for a critic to admit but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t true. Further more, while I have no way of knowing this for certain, I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only critic who pre-judged this movie before watching it.
With some truly god-awful trailers for the film having played non-stop for several months before the movie was released in theaters, Old Dogs quickly distinguished itself as something I never planned to watch. As someone who writes a column named “Bad Movies Done Right,” though, sometimes I have to take a bullet.
I went into the movie expecting a tepid, slapstick yukfest equivalent of a migraine assault. Old Dogs pretty much delivered right on cue. I can’t, with complete certainty, say that my predisposition to dislike the film affected my enjoyment of the movie. Having to endure three months of watching Seth Green cuddle with a gorilla during theatrical trailers and TV spots for the film certainly didn’t help me appreciate the movie’s humor any more. All I can say is that Old Dogs certainly didn’t show any new tricks.
See, I had that line written before I even saw the movie. I’m a terrible critic. But I can’t help it.
I tried to like the movie. My hopes would go up every time I saw one of the film’s numerous cameo appearances (of which included Dax Shepard, Bernie Mac, Matt Dillon, Justin Long, and Luis Guzman). As truly talented comedian after comedian phoned in a larger then life performance that failed to find my funny bone, my hope was quickly scattered to the wind like the frothy spittle from a dog’s tongue as it hangs its head out of a window.
There I go again. Another pre-written “dog” reference.
A part of me feels like I need to apologize to Old Dogs director Walt Becker.
Another part, though, feels as if Becker owes the audiences an apology. Travolta and Williams are both highly talented actors who have shown time and time again that they are capable of comedy. Yet in Old Dogs, both actors’ talents are wasted on contrived gags that rely too much on elaborate set-ups that never really pay off.
After the two comedians accidentally take each other’s pills (of which they have just spent ten minutes explaining in exacting details the many humorous side-effects that come with the medication), audiences are “treated” to a series of campy gags involving some truly horrendous CGI facial enhancement.
If you’ve ever wanted to see John Travolta grinning like the Cheshire Cat and you don’t have access to photo morphing technology from the mid-‘90s, you are in luck.
I feel kind of bad picking on Old Dogs. I’m sure I’m coming off as a bully as I mock the excruciatingly painful emotional moments that scatter the film like dots on a Dalmatian. I know for a fact that Travolta and Williams are capable of fine dramatic roles. Why then are the scenes in which the two are supposed to show range and emotion less believable then a high school theater club’s performance of Cabaret?
I believe the answer is simple: a paycheck.
After watching this movie, I am positive that Old Dogs was little more then a new addition to the guest wing for Robin Williams’ mansion.
John Travolta is a different story. I honestly believe that him doing this movie is kinda sweet. You see, John is not the only Travolta to appear on screen.
John’s wife Kelly Preston plays Robin Williams’s love interest and their daughter Ella Travolta plays one-half of Williams’ offspring. As an added bonus, the Blu-ray even includes a nauseatingly syrupy music video that Travolta and his daughter perform. The song itself seems like it was ripped from the reject pile of a ‘90s R&B radio countdown but the love between Travolta and his daughter clearly shows as the two of them skip around the video’s set.
Love and money. I guess there are worse reasons to make a movie.
Robert Saucedo will stop pre-judging movies as soon as terrible movie trailers stop being made. Follow him on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.