DVD Review HTF Review: Good Boy! - Special Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Feb 19, 2004.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Good Boy! – Special Edition

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 2003
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 88 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Full Screen (4:3)
    Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Cantonese, and Mandarin
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish – Stereo Surround; French – Stereo Surround

    Haven’t we been subjected to enough (mostly bad) movies featuring talking animals or babies? Apparently those responsible for financing Good Boy! and putting it on film didn’t think so!

    Now, before going any further, I must confess that I actually liked some of the earlier entries into this genre, but I still haven’t quite recovered from the dreadful Look Who’s Talking Now and Dr. Dolittle 2! As such, I was not looking forward to cracking open the shrink wrap on Good Boy!. Surprisingly, however, Good Boy! turned out to be not all bad, as these films go, provided one is not expecting too much. Unfortunately, the film did precious little to rekindle my interest in the genre, especially now that its novelty of animals speaking has long since worn off.

    Basically, Good Boy! chronicles the adventures of Owen (Liam Aiken), an adolescent social pariah who encounters, and subsequently befriends, a dog called Hubble (voiced by Matthew Broderick). A boy and his dog! How cute is that? Well, I had dogs growing up, so I think some elements of the premise are very cute, but since it is a bit simplistic, the filmmakers decided to give the story a little twist. You see, shortly after Owen meets Hubble, he discovers that the lovable pooch is really an alien being from the planet Dog Star! It turns out that Hubble has been sent to investigate the rumor that humans, and not dogs, are in control of planet Earth.

    After the otherworldly mutt inadvertently endows Owen with the ability to understand canine speech, he goes on to inform him that all dogs hail from the aforementioned planet Dog Star, and were initially sent to Earth to colonize it. Hubble also tells Owen that if the “Greater Dane” (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave), who rules all of dog kind, finds out that dogs have not succeeded in their mission they will all be summoned home. Since Hubble does not want this to happen, he asks Owen to help him convince the Greater Dane that “man’s best friend” is really man’s master. They also receive aid on their quest from a motley crew of local dogs (voiced by Delta Burke, Donald Faison, Brittany Murphy, and Carl Reiner), who join in on the plot to deceive the top dog.

    As this story continues unfolding, there are some enjoyable bonding moments between Owen and Hubble in the first third of the film. I must be honest, Godd Boy! almost had me hooked at about thirty minutes into it! Sadly, however, the film ultimately proves to be a one-trick pony, incapable of sustaining its initial charm over its running time. Without question, this film’s premise hangs by the thinnest of threads, which is find for its demographic, but most of the attempts at humor come across as ham-handed (especially the frequent flatulence jokes).

    As you can imagine, coupling flat, and sometimes juvenile, humor with the been-there-done-that talking animal gimmick can make for rather bland viewing. Really, talking animals have been in plenty of films in recent years, often with far better results. It takes more than a couple of cute “talking” animals to make a picture entertaining, even for youngsters. It also generally requires a good story and characters that one can really root for (or against), and Good Boy! falls a bit short in both of these areas. The animation is just fine, especially considering the film’s low budget, but aside from the cute bonding scenes between Owen and Hubble, I think Good Boy! lacks the crisp writing and interesting, loveable characters I found in Babe, to give one example.

    More specifically, I did not like how writer-director John Hoffman failed to address some of Good Boy’s major plot holes, the cookie-cutter bullies that pick on Owen, or the cliché of parents (Kevin Nealon and Molly Shannon) oblivious to their child’s feelings. In terms of plot holes, it seems more than a little strange that Owen is not at all concerned about the possibility (though probably remote) that aiding Hubble could lead to his brethren overthrowing humankind and seizing control of the Earth. Indeed, he seems completely unaware of this possibility, and gives his all to helping his alien friend, regardless of whatever the consequences may be for human beings. The disingenuous, sappy “life lessons” also made me roll my eyes a couple of times, in addition to making it abundantly clear to me that I am not in this motion picture’s target audience.

    Wait a minute, didn’t I say a while back that one should probably avoid placing lofty expectations on a movie like this, much less one with a premise as far-fetched as the one in Good Boy!? That’s right, I did…so maybe I should relax, be a little less critical, and try to see this from say…a 7-year old’s point of view.

    Well, if I was a 7-year old, I would probably say that the movie follows the kiddie-movie formula well enough to be considered “okay”, and does contain a handful of fresh twists on well-worn dog jokes. Sure, most adults will probably find Good Boy! tolerable (at best), but I can see how it might have some appeal for younger kids. I would also be remiss not to reiterate that nearly the entire cast turns in solid performances that generally outshine the spotty writing. This is particularly true of Liam Aiken, who is quite believable in his role as an intelligent but troubled adolescent who longs for a friend to share experiences with, and the voice actors who give each of the dogs in the film a rather unique sense of character.

    In the final analysis, it is a pretty safe bet that Good Boy! will never be regarded as a family classic, but taken for what it is, it may be worth a look for younger children (perhaps 8 or under), or anyone who willfully refrains from changing the channel when Look Who’s Talking Now is on. Of course, if you fall into the latter of these two categories, then you have real problems! [​IMG]

    Seriously though, if you are looking for a good “talking animal” movie, I would suggest steering clear of this, and picking up a copy of Babe or its sequel, Babe: Pig in the City! Or, if all else fails, you could always pop Finding Nemo into your DVD player for the 100th time!

    Unfortunately, I received the Full Screen (4:3) version of Good Boy! from MGM, despite the press release’s indication of an anamorphic widescreen version also being available on March 2nd. Please note that “Full Screen” is not on the front of the keepcase, only in small print under the “Tasty Special Treats” box on the back of the keepcase. If you do decide to pick this release up, be sure to check the keepcase so you don’t get an unwanted surprise!

    Well, now we have that out of the way, so I’ll move on! Full Screen or not, I must say that I was more than a little impressed by the overall image quality of this release. To begin with, although there is just enough grain to remind the viewer that Good Boy! was shot on film stock, and a spot here and there, the image is remarkably clean, and has a rich, almost three-dimensional appearance.

    Colors, including flesh tones, are reproduced beautifully, with greens being particularly lovely. Most impressively though, given the amount of vibrant red, orange, and pink in the film, was the fact I only noticed very minor dot crawl once or twice. Additionally, whites are squeaky clean, and blacks are deep and defined, giving the picture excellent detail even during scenes filmed at night.

    Taken for what it is, this is a very good transfer, which shows off the gorgeous Canadian locations and colorful canine/human characters throughout. After watching this DVD, I find it hard to believe this was a “low budget” film! Indeed, there were several times (like the intro to Chapter 15) where the quality of the image had me completely captivated. I can only imagine how great the anamorphic widescreen version (1.85:1) must look. I only wish the movie was as good as it looks… [​IMG]

    As was the case with Good Boy’s visuals, MGM delivered the goods in the audio department. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 for English speakers, and stereo surround for Spanish and French speakers, the source material is recreated with aplomb!

    Specifically, dialogue comes through cleanly, and is rooted in the center of the soundstage, where it should be. Micro-dynamic noises, like rustling leaves, also ring through clearly, and there is a very nice balance between sound effects, the score, and characters’ speech.

    Further, bass response is both powerful and controlled, with the .1 channel providing some oomph to the few effects to the film and adequately reinforcing the film’s score. No complaints there! Rear channel use is a little more subdued, although that is inherent in the source material, not a fault of the sound engineer. As you might expect, being a “kiddie comedy” most of the action takes place in the front of the soundstage, so the rears are generally confined to generating ambient noises or fleshing out the score. This is done well, however, so there are no real complaints here either!

    Finally, music reproduction is handled adeptly, as the score has a wonderful sense of depth. On occasion, it did sound as if the high end had been rolled off a bit, but frequency response was quite even. While Good Boy! is not going to replace the disc anyone uses to demonstrate their home theater’s audio capabilities, the Dolby Digital audio more than does justice to the source material, and appears to have been afforded a little more care than I would have expected from a movie geared towards children. Good job MGM!


    Easter Eggs
    I found two Easter Eggs, both located on the second page of the Special Features menu. To see the first one, highlight “Dog Pound” on this page and then press up to reveal a “Bark!” symbol, which can then be selected. For the second one, highlight “With Director Commentary” under Dog Pound, and then press right to reveal another symbol. Select this symbol to see another hidden short.

    Audio Canine-tary
    Too bad the powers that be chose such a silly title for what is actually a rather fun feature length commentary for Good Boy! by director John Hoffman and stars Molly Shannon and Liam Aiken. Since the film is his baby, Hoffman dominates the commentary, but Shannon and Aiken banter back and forth with him in a leisurely, jovial fashion, and often have interesting things to say themselves. Highlights included:

    --- Mr. Hoffman talking at length about his inspiration for the story, and the importance of casting a “believable” family in the film.

    --- The revelation that the film was made for only $17 million, when similar films usually cost $60 million or more to complete.

    --- Am analysis of the purposeful use of color throughout the film to set the appropriate mood.

    --- Hoffman discussing how, with the exception of one CGI shot, all of the dogs in the film were real, and only underwent training for a mere five weeks!

    The trio has a lot more to say, much of it providing great insight into the process of taking Good Boy! from script to screen. Each person was easy to listen to, perhaps a function of their all having had a really good time making the film. All in all, while this is not among the very best commentary tracks I have ever heard, it is an enjoyable listen, which is particularly surprising since I did not care for the film very much! Unfortunately, those most likely to enjoy Good Boy! will almost certainly lack the patience to sit through it.

    A Dog-umentary: The Making of Good Boy!
    This 25 minute long featurette, which features cast and crew interviews, clips from the film, and behind-the-scenes footage, is both well put together and informative. It was also a little more insightful than I would have expected it to be, given the film’s demographic. To be sure, there is a little “fluff” included, but John Hoffman and the producers provide a lot of information about how the project got off the ground, and there is also some neat footage of the animals being trained by Animal Coordinator Bonnie Judd. If you like Good Boy! be sure to watch this. More than likely, it will be worth the 25-minute investment of your time.

    Crafty Canines
    This very cool extra features Animal Coordinator Bonnie Judd, who demonstrates some basic animal training methods, and then offers some tips on how to teach one’s own dogs a few neat tricks!

    Pooch Profiles
    Brief biographies are provided for the canine cast, specifically:
    --- Hubble
    --- Wilson
    --- Shep
    --- Barbara Ann
    --- Nelly
    --- The Greater Dane
    --- The Henchman

    Dog Walking Duty
    This menu-based extra features a map which allows the viewer to select various locations from the film, at which point some amusing clips and interviews are played. The locations available are:
    --- Owen & Hubble’s House
    --- Shep’s House
    --- Wilson’s House
    --- Barbara Ann’s House
    --- Nelly’s House

    Deleted/Alternate Scenes
    There are a total of seven deleted/alternate scenes, which can be played with optional director’s commentary (except for the “Alternate Punchlines”). The deleted/alternate scenes are entitled as follows:

    --- Why “Hubble”?
    --- Owen: Dog Psychic?
    --- Ask Your Parents Why This Is Funny
    --- Shep the Big Mouth
    --- Director on the Cutting Room Floor
    --- Greater Consequences for the Greater Dane
    --- Alternate Punchlines (No Director Commentary Available)

    Q & A With Hubble
    This bonus feature consists of a screen where the viewer can highlight one of several microphones that are being jammed in Hubble’s face. Upon selecting each microphone, Hubble will answer a question about himself.

    Good Boy! Scrapbook
    Upon selecting this bonus feature, the viewer will be treated to several galleries of production stills, which are displayed over some rather lame, annoying music.

    Theatrical Trailer and Promotional Materials
    The theatrical trailer for Good Boy! is included, as well as:

    --- Trailers for Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids, and Stellaluna, which open the disc.

    --- The Crocodile Hunter Trailer

    --- The Hamilton Mattress Trailer

    --- The Recipe for Disaster Trailer

    --- The Just 4 Kicks Trailer

    --- The Five Senses Trailer

    --- The Agent Cody Banks

    --- The Miss Spider’s Sunny Patch Kids

    --- The Stellaluna Trailer


    (on a five-point scale)
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    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Good Boy! is a fairly straightforward entry into a genre that, to me, is running out of steam. The jokes don’t always work, there are too many plot holes and clichés, and the solid performances don’t quite make up for the spotty writing. Still, the light-hearted nature of the film, and some cute bonding moments between Owen and Hubble, might make it worth a rental for parents of younger children looking for something new to watch. In all likelihood, most older kids, will probably find the film to be too juvenile as a whole to be thoroughly enjoyable. Needless to say, the vast majority of adults need not apply.

    For the reasons above, I cannot recommend a purchase, especially a blind buy, even though the audio/visual presentations of the film are very well done, and the disc features a whole kennel full of extras. Again, parents of younger children may want to consider a rental, but there are so many other good family films that recently hit the DVD format that I would advise putting your money elsewhere.

    Stay tuned…

    Release Date:
    March 2nd, 2004
  2. Matt Shiv

    Matt Shiv Agent

    Jul 4, 2002
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    Unless there has been a change, all press materials I've seen (and video ordering info) indicates that this movie is only being released in a full screen version.
  3. Chuck West

    Chuck West Stunt Coordinator

    Jul 21, 2002
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  4. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Screenwriter

    Dec 21, 2002
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    Jake Lipson
    Being a dog lover, I was looking forward to this as a guilty pleasure but will not purchase it in fullscreen only. I knew I should've seen it in theaters. Darnit.

    Thanks for the review anyway. I may give it a rent, but that's as much as I'll do on a P&S title.
  5. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

    Apr 15, 1999
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    Dumb question--is it open matte or true pan/scan?
  6. Roger J

    Roger J Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 11, 2004
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    Cute movie...that is 16:9 widescreen in R2 (Japan).
  7. Joshua Clinard

    Joshua Clinard Screenwriter

    Aug 25, 2000
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    Abilene, TX
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    Joshua Clinard
    Truly a shame. Based on the review, it looks like a film I might have watched. I won't even rent it since it's Pan & Scan. When will MGM learn?

  8. Robert Floto

    Robert Floto Supporting Actor

    Jul 27, 1999
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    What!?! I can't believe we even have a review of a non-OAR release!!! If the press materials are true, then shouldn't we be making a stand...and not support non-OAR releases by giving them full-blown reviews? [​IMG]
  9. Jack Shappa

    Jack Shappa Second Unit

    Jan 24, 2003
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    This movie is GARBAGE. Don't bother. If you're still on the fence the full-screen only should be the final nail in the coffin. This movie was worse than Maser of disguise.

    - Jack

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