John Travolta or Robin Williams don't shy away from jokes their grandfathers would have groaned about. Since they are old dogs, there are no new tricks in Walt Disney's "Old Dogs," a shamelessly predictable, overly broad comedy aimed at the family audience starting Thanksgiving weekend.
Apparently, the working principle is if it's old, let's use it. There is one mild -- really, really mild -- gag that hints we are in an age that doesn't freak out that gay people exist. That's about as bold as "Old Dogs" gets. The film, opening Wednesday (November 25), should play well this weekend for grandparents and youngsters, after which any staying power it demonstrates will be a tribute to the stars' names and the Disney brand.
The film resurrects the ghosts of "Kramer vs. Kramer," "3 Men and a Baby" and any other drama or comedy that congratulates men for being able to cope with young children, Reuters reports.
It was also reported, creepy, flirtatious bachelor Charlie (Travolta) and sad-sack divorcé Dan (Williams) are longtime friends and business partners. During negotiations for a huge marketing deal, Dan finds out he has fraternal twins from a one-day marriage eight years ago. Now their mom, Vicki (Kelly Preston), is headed to jail for two weeks—this being a family film, she's incarcerated for environmental activism—so Dan and Charlie agree to watch the children while she's gone.
If his spawn had been terrors, this might've been somewhat entertaining. But they're generic, charmless kids who just wanna connect with Daddy. But Daddy Dan doesn't know how to be a good parent—and Dogs doesn't know how to develop its well-worn premise. So it cobbles random humiliating situations for the bumbling fiftysomething boomers and tosses in potty humor, gay jokes, punches to the face, golf balls to the groin, etc.
In one particularly moronic sequence, Charlie decides Dan could better relate to his kids by becoming...a human puppet. Okayyy. He hires a flamboyant puppeteer (Bernie Mac in, sadly, his last role) to suit Dan up with robotics and a probe down his pants, which Charlie operates from a video monitoring room, E! Online reports.
Screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman don't bring any new tricks to this old dog; instead, their method is to replace all recognizable human behavior with synthetic Hollywood formula.
Though Ella Bleu is Preston and Travolta's daughter, the kids make little impact, since they exist primarily to set up jokes about their incompetent elders. Medication, incontinence and death are all enlisted as punch lines, though none, of course, serves as the comedic high point represented by a series of hits to the groin.
Becker drags several talented actors down with his leads, including Seth Green, Amy Sedaris, Matt Dillon and the late Bernie Mac. But it's especially dispiriting to see Williams looking so tired and embarrassed. He should keep Cuba Gooding's number on speed-dial, in case Becker tries to enlist him again, New York Daily News reports.