The Shaggy Dog review by Mike Long

Along with the theatrical and DVD reviews at this site, it often seems as if we need to add a "Remake" category, as the copies of older films continue to flow out of Hollywood. And while one may be able to justify a film being made twice, when it gets beyond that, things get a bit ridiculous. (Unless we're talking about various adaptations of classic literature.) The Shaggy Dog represents the fourth time that this Disney tale (tail?) has been trotted out, and this old dog has clearly run out of new tricks.

Tim Allen stars in The Shaggy Dog as Dave Douglas, an assistant district attorney who is prosecuting Justin Forrester (Joshua Leonard), a man charged with setting fire to a lab at Grant & Strickland. Forrester maintains that the company is performing harmful experiments on animals, a charge which is denied by company representative, Dr. Kozak (Robert Downey, Jr.). This is a high-profile case and if Dave can win, he'll get the endorsement to run for D.A.

However, Dave's ambitions at work are interfering with his homelife. His wife, Rebecca (Kristin Davis) is tired of never seeing her husband. Josh (Spencer Breslin) thinks that he can impress his father by playing football when he really wants to be in the school play. Daughter Carly (Zena Grey) is a young radical and she supports Forrester in his quest to save animals. Carly and her boyfriend, Trey (Shawn Pyfrom), go to Grant & Strickland and free a sheepdog. When Carly brings the dog home, it bites Dave.

After this, Dave begins to feel very strange, as his senses are heightened and he's restless. Things get even worse when he changes into a dog! However, being on four legs is good for Dave as it gives him an opportunity to see the world from a new angle where he learns how his family really feels about him and what's really happening at Grant & Strickland. But, how can Dave change things when he's a dog?

Why Disney felt the need to remake this film is a moot point, so we won't discuss it. (One can assume, as usual, that money was at the root of the motivation, but it could also be hypothesized that they feel "The Shaggy Dog" is one of those stories which needs to be reinvented every few years.) What we can discuss is how this new version is different from the previous ones. The movie is an amalgam of the previous films, as all three of the prior movies featured a character who became a dog, but in the 1959 and 1994 versions, it wasn't an adult. In the 1976 version, The Shaggy D.A. the character who transformed was an both an adult and a district attorney. In the three earlier movies, magic caused the transformation, but in the new film, genetic experiments are at the root of the problem, and the movie features several bizarre mutant creatures.

My question isn't necessarily why this movie was made, but at what audience is it aimed? Given the film's aesthetic, one would assume that it's a standard Disney family film -- and in many ways, it is. The movie features a dog as a prominent character and a group of weird animals that make weird noises. But, the movie also contains a ton of ideas that I consider to be "adult". Let's start with the idea of the animal rights activist who is on trial for arson. From there, we have the genetics lab full of odd creatures and the ethics debate surrounding this work. Then there's the marital problems between Dave and Rebecca. I watched this movie with my two young children and a lot of the proceedings seemed to be going over their heads. There were also some questionably mean-spirited moments in the movie and although there is no nudity in the film, the idea that Dave is naked when he turns back into a person was really unnecessary.

One's opinion of The Shaggy Dog may come down to the question of whether or not one likes Tim Allen. Say what you will, Allen really goes for broke here and in the scenes where he's forced to act like a dog, really sells it. Some of this is enhanced by CGI, but the scene where he shoves his face into a bowl of cereal, or sniffs a sandwich are all Tim Allen, and they are relatively funny. But that is really the only highlight of the movie. The family subplots with the unhappy wife, the unfulfilled son, and the radical daughter are all quite hackneyed and today are the stuff of sitcoms. The story involving the dog and it's plight are somewhat muddled and there's really no suspense. And being a Disney film, we know that Dave will have a life-altering experience, so there's no suspense.

As a vehicle for Tim Allen, The Shaggy Dog works, as the comedic actor is often somewhat stiff and is rarely allowed to cut loose as he does in this film. Other than that, the movie is predictable fluff which will bore adults and confuse children. I can't remember the other "Shaggy Dog" films well enough to say how this one compares, but as a contemporary film, it deserves to be sent to the pound.

The Shaggy Dog barks its way onto DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The DVD contains both the widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The video quality here is slightly above average, as the picture is sharp and clear. The image shows essentially no grain and no defects from the source material. The widescreen image appears to be accurately framed and looks fine. The colors are quite good, most notably the green grass. Despite all of this, the image did look somewhat flat at times. The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which offers clear dialogue and sound effects. Family films typically disappoint in the sonic realm, but The Shaggy Dog offered good surround sound and a nice smattering of bass response. The stereo effects were also notably good.

The DVD contains a few extras. Director Brian Robbins and producer David Hoberman provide an AUDIO COMMENTARY, which is only available on the widescreen version. This track is...well, kind of dull. The two discuss the production, detailing the casting, locations, special effects and other details, but the talk is never very interesting. It's as if they decided to take things down a notch just in case younger viewers decided to check out the commentary and the result was definitely mediocre. The DVD contains 4 DELETED SCENES, which total about 4 minutes. These scenes contain a very odd alternate ending, which I guarantee was changed because it was simply too creepy. The extras are rounded out by a BLOOPER REEL (2 minutes) and a "Sing-along" (which is also a "Bark-along).

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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