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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