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Discussion in 'Archived Reviews' started by Matt Hough, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Matt Hough
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    Old Dogs (Blu-ray Combo Pack)

    Directed by Walt Becker

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 2009
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 88 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
    Subtitles: SDH, English, Spanish, French
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 44.99

    Release Date: March 9, 2010
    Review Date: February 28, 2010
    The Film
    The last time director Walt Becker and star John Travolta collaborated on a comedy for Disney, the result was the mediocre but highly popular Wild Hogs. Their new film Old Dogs is a fish out of water farce as two confirmed bachelors are burdened with the responsibility of caring for children for a couple of weeks. Tired, clichéd, predictable: the film covers all of those unhappy bases. Not even the presence of co-star Robin Williams manages to inject any sense of spontaneity or fun into the proceedings. This is family comedy at its most desperate and dismal.
    After a quickie marriage and divorce seven years ago, sports marketing executive Dan (Robin Williams) is surprised to learn from his ex-wife Vicki (Kelly Preston) that he has fraternal twin children: Zach (Conner Rayburn) and Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta). Not only that, but Vicki’s political activism has landed her a two-week jail sentence, so after an accident takes babysitter Jenna (Rita Wilson) out of the picture, Dan is the only one left to take care of the kids. With his confirmed bachelor buddy and business partner Charlie (John Travolta) to help him, Dan hopes he can get to know his children during the fortnight they’re in his care. Only a looming, potentially lucrative business deal with a Japanese firm might manage to spoil the idyllic time Dan has planned for his two children.
    The hoary plotline of a man learning of the existence of his own kids years after the fact of their birth was already used by Disney less than two years ago in The Game Plan, but here we go again with that same tired scenario, and in the hands of screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman, there has been nothing much new added to the mix. We get the expected pee, poop, fart, groin, and gay jokes. We see the kids inadvertently helping their dad with his business and his continually clumsy attempts to endear himself to his children. Naturally there comes the moment where the dad must choose between a huge business opportunity or being permanently reunited with ex-wife and children with no chance for compromise or discussion of how a nearly impossible situation can be made to work. It’s all safe and predictably wan in thought and execution though director Walt Becker does use one enjoyable motif for picturing Dan’s horrifically affected depth perception from taking the wrong medication, the optical exaggerations accounting for some of the film’s only genuinely good laughs. But the film lurches from one undeveloped sequence to the next: a weekend at a wilderness camp (wasting Matt Dillon and Justin Long in unfunny cameos), an unfunny golf game with their Japanese investors, a human puppet show (with the late Bernie Mac not in top form), and the climactic zoo sequence (with a gorilla, feisty penguins, and an airborne Williams totally unfunny). There’s a bland desperation to it all that’s singularly unsettling.
    Neither of the two stars John Travolta or Robin Williams shine in their roles though their years-long friendship off screen does manage to convey a passable dual chemistry onscreen. But Williams has left his improvisational skills at the studio gate, and Travolta is simply trying too hard to be funny. The children Conner Rayburn and Ella Bleu Travolta don’t evince much talent either, routinely delivering their lines or staged business without much real emotion or a sense of fun. Making it a family affair, Travolta’s real-life wife Kelly Preston does passably well in the small part of the jailed mom while Seth Green, as the aide to Travolta and Williams in their business affairs, does what he can with the trite, tiresome material (making goofy faces while being hit in the groin with a golf ball or fondled by an adoring gorilla). In addition to the underused Matt Dillon, Justin Long, and Bernie Mac, blink quickly and you might miss Ann-Margret, Amy Sedaris, Dax Shepard, and Luis Guzman, though the latter two have a potentially hilarious dimwit charm that goes underutilized as babyproofers always looking for work.
    Video Quality
    The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio has been presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is nice and solid in the image though skin tones do often veer toward brown (and not just in the absurd scene with Williams’ spray-on tan stupidly gone awry). Sharpness is generally good, but there are shots where images are soft and less well defined. Of course, the print is clean and free from artifacts. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
    Audio Quality
    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix uses the rear channels mostly for music extensions with John Debney’s frantic score and a selection of melodic standards (“Chariots of Fire” anyone?) filling the soundstage. Otherwise, the mix is decidedly front heavy and not always engaging, not even in the more frantic moments of slapstick where the entire soundfield might have been used more creatively.
    Special Features
    The audio commentary is provided by director Walt Becker, producer Andrew Panay, and writers David Diamond and David Weissman. They chatter and chuckle away at what they’re seeing on the screen, generally appreciative of each other’s work and heavy with praise for their stars, but there are occasions where they cease talking and silence prevails. It’s an average commentary track at best.
    There are 2 ½ minutes of bloopers presented in 1080p.
    There are three deleted scenes which include an alternate ending sequence which doesn’t play as well as the one in the finished film. They may be viewed separately or in one 3 ½-minute grouping. They’re in 1080p.
    “Young Dogs Learn Old Tricks” finds Conner Rayburn interviewing Robin Williams and Ella Bleu Travolta interviewing her father with some softball questions for 2 ¾ minutes. It’s in 1080p.
    There are two music videos of songs featured in the film. Bryan Adams sings his “You’ve Been a Friend to Me” for 3 minutes while John Travolta sings and capers with his daughter to “Every Little Step” for 3 ½ minutes. Both are in 1080i.
    There are trailers in 1080p for The Prince of Persia, When in Rome, Tinker Bell, Toy Story and Toy Story 2, The Princess and the Frog, James and the Giant Peach, and Beauty and the Beast.
    The disc is BD-Live enhanced, but the network was not operational during the review period.
    The second disc in the set is the DVD version of the movie which contains the commentary, bloopers, deleted scenes, and the Travolta music video from the above list.
    The third disc in the set is the digital copy (DisneyFile) of the film. Instructions are enclosed for loading into PC and Mac devices.
    In Conclusion
    2.5/5 (not an average)
    Old Dogs is an old comic story rather routinely told. It’s innocuous enough for the entire family, and the silly slapstick activities may entertain those looking for an innocent, uninvolving time passer. But there are better comedies out there, and this Blu-ray package, which does include a DVD and a digital copy of the movie, presents the film in its best possible light.
    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC

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