Review by Paul Stathakis | March 15, 2006

In “The Shag­gy Dog”, a remake of a 1959 film fea­tur­ing Fred Mac­Mur­ray, Tim Allen stars as Dave Dou­glas, an assis­tant dis­trict attor­ney assigned to a case involv­ing an ani­mal lab­o­ra­to­ry. He is unex­pect­ed­ly bit­ten by a 300-year-old dog, which was stolen from a monastery in Tibet. The dog car­ries a spe­cif­ic genet­ic-mutat­ing DNA that could help a mad researcher devel­op an impor­tant serum. Allen is infect­ed with the dog’s DNA and, as a result, inter­mit­tent­ly trans­forms into a sheep­dog.

Robert Downey Jr. starts as the over-enthu­si­as­tic researcher with evil ways. In the role of the vil­lain, Downey Jr. will sure­ly grab kids’ atten­tion. He brings a nec­es­sary ener­gy to his char­ac­ter and turns in yet anoth­er per­for­mance that show­cas­es what a ver­sa­tile actor he real­ly is. In The Shag­gy Dog, he desires to be cred­it­ed for hav­ing dis­cov­ered a genet­ic-mutat­ing serum which can offer humans eter­nal life. He wants to reap all the ben­e­fits. But, real­ly, kids won’t under­stand any of that.

When­ev­er Dave turns into the dog, he tries to make his fam­i­ly real­ize what is hap­pen­ing to him. His two chil­dren and wife only lis­ten to his barks. Tech­ni­cal­ly, one can­not speak if he is trapped inside the body of a dog. So why even both­er try­ing? Dave nev­er attempts to tell his fam­i­ly about his dog con­ver­sion episodes when he returns to being a per­son.

This year Dis­ney brought us the fam­i­ly dra­ma “Eight Below”, and not only were kids thank­ful but adults as well. Now the same stu­dio returns but with a sto­ry that is any­thing but delight­ful or genial. The film makes the mis­take of label­ing itself as a com­e­dy when only one or two moments deserve our laughs. There is a scene in which Dave and his wife vis­it their son’s teacher. Allen reveals his fun­ny side and, no, not when he chas­es a cat, but when he fix­ates him­self on the teacher’s sand­wich. Allen also demon­strates good phys­i­cal com­e­dy in scenes which take place in the court­room.

But the pit­falls are numer­ous in “The Shag­gy Dog”: a dog sniff­ing anoth­er dog’s behind, Allen get­ting down on all four to uri­nate on a fire hydrant, Allen bump­ing an elder woman into a tree, a frog and snake that bark, a boss that is drugged, and the list goes on.

In short, this is not the stuff Dis­ney is made of. This pic­ture is an assault on the mind of any child who dares to watch it. At least one kid will won­der why Dave nev­er tells his fam­i­ly about his prob­lem when he is not the dog. For­get that. Why is no one fright­ened after hav­ing wit­nessed an ani­mal turn into a human? No one is shocked. The film’s poster exhibits a cute tagline: “Raise The Woof.” That is the clos­est “The Shag­gy Dog” ever comes to being cute and orig­i­nal.

 

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