Old Dogs

Old Dogs
Photo: Photo: Ron Phillips © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Director(s): Walt Becker

Writer(s): David Diamond and David Weissman

Cast: John Travolta, Robin Williams, Kelly Preston, Conner Rayburn, Ella Bleu Travolta, Lori Loughlin, Seth Green, Bernie Mac, Matt Dillon and Ann-Margret

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Nov 25, 2009 - Wide

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Old Dogs, the new comedy from the director of Wild Hogs (I guess he likes the “og” sound), stars John Travolta and Robin Williams as Charlie and Dan, two successful sports marketing gurus about to make a huge career-capping deal with a Japanese company.

Like a multi-millionaire Odd Couple, Charlie’s the crazy fun guy while Dan is the tightly-wound partner who often finds himself as the butt of the jokes Charlie uses to win over clients. Charlie starts the film off by telling the Japanese clients about Dan’s quickly annulled marriage to a woman in South Beach on the day he was celebrating his divorce. That woman, played by Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston, re-enters Dan’s life in a big way when she announces their short-lived union produced two children — oh and by the way, can he take care of them for two weeks while she goes to prison?

That’s the set-up for this all too predictable and ultimately safe comedy. The audience is firmly in “we know where this is going” territory the second Dan and Charlie take custody of the children, one of which is Travolta’s real-life daughter, Ella Bleu. Hilarity is supposed to ensue at this point but instead we get the usual “can’t connect with my own children” shtick that heads textbook point by textbook point towards the usual maudlin milestones. Along the way we get bits of physical comedy based on incontinence, medication mix ups, flaming tombs, and golf balls to the groin.

Travolta’s on-screen charm can still woo an audience. He’s the life of the party, but unfortunately he deserves a better party. Williams continues suppressing his manic comic genius to accept yet another role that has sad violins throughout it and Seth Green, who plays Dan and Charlie’s Tokyo-bound employee, seems to be in the film because it was either film this or do laundry. Throw in a couple of scenes by the late Bernie Mac and an oddly cast Luis Guzman in a deleted scenes role and you’ve got the recipe for a meal that should never have been made. Sometimes it seems that the casting was based on the director asking “Do you have a minute?” That would explain why Matt Dillon, Justin Long, Ann-Margret and Amy Sedaris all pop up in tiny roles that could have been played by lesser names.

Williams and Travolta should search for much better material to combine their comic talents on. Sadly, Old Dogs is a film that should be put to sleep.

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