Dan (Robin Williams), an unlucky in love divorcee and Charlie (John Travolta), a carefree bachelor have been friends and business partners for many years. Just as they are about to clinch a lucrative business deal with a Japanese firm, Dan's ex-wife Vicki (Kelly Preston) surprises him with the news that he is the father of their 6 year old twins (Ella Bleu Travolta, Conner Rayburn). Additionally, he and Charlie need to look after them for a short while. But a lot can go wrong in 'a short while'.
Review by Louise Keller:
'Scat happens, man,' John Travolta and Robin Williams tell each other, when they realise the 'scat' they have smeared over their faces at an outdoor adventure camp is, in fact bear poop. It's hard not to begin by saying this is a dog of a film. And I'm not referring to Lucky, the sweet old canine (soulfully played by a dog called Sebastian), who pensively cocks his head, barks occasionally and looks more embarrassed than anything, as he observes the chaos that is going on around him in this tragic misfire of a comedy.
John Travolta wearing an oversize, joker-like grin at a funeral is probably the low-point of the film, although Robin Williams' mock black-face, after a tanning salon accident, is not far behind. Travolta's wife Kelly Preston, who plays William's wife knows how to get rid of a fake tan in two flashes, by the way. It's a miracle! The basic premise is so fraught with heavy handed attempts at humour it forgets the most important things - the characters and the story. It's like a long sit com gone horribly wrong.
When William's Dan is told he has 6 year old twins, we have already heard he is 'allergic to anything under 4ft'. Dan has to look after them because his political activist ex-wife has no Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card and her hand-model (cross-eyed) friend (Rita Wilson) has an unfortunate accident involving a key part of her body. The scenarios get worse and worse. Dan and Charlie are mistaken for being the Grandpas - or being gay; there are cricket ball crotch jokes; a nonsensical subplot about child-proofers employed to blunt the pointy furniture; ear-biting penguins, an amorous gorilla (Seth Green gets the grunt, er the brunt of it) and Bernie Mac (in his last role before he died in August 2008) who delivers Travolta's line from Grease 'It's electrifying' as electric circuits make Williams into a human puppet. Don't ask why. Ann-Margret and Matt Dillon also make cameo appearances and no-one looks good.
The funniest idea comes in the bathroom scene when Travolta and Williams exchange information about their medications. But the execution of the pills getting mixed up and what happens next is slapstick gone wrong. Director Walt Becker gets everyone to ham it up to such an extent it is embarrassing. No wonder the film has been sitting on the shelf for a while. Bear poop looks good, by comparison.
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OLD DOGS (PG)
CAST: John Travolta, Robin Williams, Kelly Preston, Conner Rayburn, Ella Bleu Travolta, Emily, Lori Loughlin, Seth Green, Bernie Mac, Matt Dillon, Ann-Margret, Rita Wilson
PRODUCER: Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy, Andrew Panay
DIRECTOR: Walt Becker
SCRIPT: David Diamond, David Weissman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeffrey L. Kimball
EDITOR: Ryan Folsey, Tom Lewis
MUSIC: John Debney
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Gropman
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney Studios
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2009