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Old Dogs (2009)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/9/2010

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/3/2010

For most of us, it's virtually impossible to imagine what it must be like to be a rich and famous celebrity. Major movie stars have the freedom to choose the projects that they want, and many have the money to buy whatever they want. When we, the common folk, think about this sort of life, it's very easy to say, "If I had XX amount of dollars, I would never work again." But, for some reason, many stars do continue to work and the law of averages says that they are going to make some bad choices. Robin Williams and John Travolta are established Hollywood icons who most likely have enough money (Travolta owns his own passenger jet), so the question must be asked -- Why would they agree to be in a movie like Old Dogs?

Old Dogs introduces us to Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams). Charlie is the laid-back fun guy, while Dan is the uptight nervous guy. They operate a sports marketing firm and have been together for years. As an icebreaker in meetings with new clients, Charlie tells the story of the time that they went to Florida and Dan got drunk, got a huge tattoo and had a fling with a complete stranger. As the two are working on a huge deal with a Japanese firm, that woman from Florida, Vicki (Kelly Preston), contacts Dan out of the blue. It seems that she was arrested during a protest and must spend two weeks in jail. She's chosen this time to introduce Dan to his children, Zach (Conner Rayburn) and Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta), the product of their one night together. Dan doesn't like kids and really doesn't know what to do with these two. Vicki's babysitter falls through, so she asks Dan to watch the kids while she serves time. Can Dan learn to be a father and juggle the huge business deal at the same time?

Old Dogs comes to us from Wild Hogs director Walt Becker. That film, which also starred Travolta, was far from original and was fairly predictable, but it got a lot of energy from its cast and was at least watchable. It told a story about maturing with which many audience members could relate.

Along those same lines, shows a distinct lack of originality -- so much so that it's astounding to think that it took two people to write this. The movie doesn't really have a story and it's really just a series of vignettes. We meet Dan and Charlie, learn that Dan doesn't like kids, and then learn that Dan has kids. From this point on, it's as if writers David Diamond and David Weissman made a list of awful, awkward things which could happen to a new parent and then hooked them together to form a script. And this is exactly how the movie plays -- we don't get scenes which move the story along. Instead, we are treated to one scene after another in which Dan, Charlie and the kids are placed in a situation, the situation goes horribly wrong, and then Dan feels bad. And then repeat. This actually wouldn't be awful if the movie showed any dash of originality, but the gags here are lame and hackneyed. As for Dan and Charlie's profession, it's never really defined and it's difficult to grasp with the deal with the Japanese entails. Apparently, being a sports marketer means that you know Shaq. (My brother-in-law is a sports marketer and his job doesn't look anything like what Dan and Charlie do.)

The lame script is done no favors by the woefully miscast Travolta and Williams. Although, one must give the movie credit for having an accurate title. Williams is 59 in real life, so it was very hard to buy him as a first-time Dad. The movie seems to realize this, thus there are some jokes about people mistaking him for the kids' grandfather, but that doesn't make the story any easier to follow. As the "fun guy" Charlie, Travolta simply gestures and mugs for the camera and brings nothing to his role. And its terribly sad to think that this was the last performance of Bernie Mac, who appears in a cameo. In an effort to sway a younger, hipper crowd, Seth Green stars as Dan and Charlie's young protege, but his talents are wasted here and it's sad to see him doing this kind of slapstick comedy.

How can you tell that a movie has no faith in itself? What if the final shot of the film is prominently featured on the Blu-ray Disc menu? This basically says, "This whole movie is predictable, so we'll go ahead and tell you the ending." Whereas Wild Hogs made nearly $170 million at the box-office, Old Dogs didn't break $50 million. While these clearly aren't the same movie, they have the same kind of vibe, and this shows that even those who go see crap want their crap to at least be fun. Old Dogs is a complete misfire which features a dull script, out of place actors, and a needless gorilla. Put this old dog to sleep.

Old Dogs may be the first film to feature medicine organizer humor on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look great and the image is never too dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and some shots show a very nice amount of depth. This image has a nice crispness to it. The Disc houses a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and runs at an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is your average comedy track, with one exception. The stereo effects are good, and nicely detailed. Crowd scenes and musical cues provide good surround sound effects. But when the gorilla arrives (if you've seen the trailer, then you know what I mean), the subwoofer effects kick in in a surprising way. Why couldn't the entire film have sounded this good?

The Old Dogs Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Walt Becker, Producer Andrew Panay, and Writers David Diamond and David Weissman. "Young Dogs Learn Old Tricks" (3 minutes) has Rayburn and Ella Travolta interviewing Williams and John Travolta. There is a 2-minute BLOOPER reel. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES, which run about 4 minutes. These are brief and don't add anything new. Finally, we have MUSIC VIDEOS for the songs "You've Been a Friend to Me" by Bryan Adams, and "Every Little Step" by John Travolta and Ella Bleu Travolta.

Review Copyright 2010 by Mike Long