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Good Boy!

Good Boy!

Rated PG, 88 min. Directed by John Hoffman. Voices by Matthew Broderick, Delta Burke, Donald Faison, Cheech Marin, Brittany Murphy, Vanessa Redgrave, Carl Reiner. Starring Molly Shannon, Liam Aiken, Kevin Nealon.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 17, 2003

Frankly, I can’t think of a more fascinating career arc than Vanessa Redgrave’s right about now: from Antonioni’s Blowup to the talking dogs ensemble piece Good Boy! in a single lifetime is simply more of a range than human beings ought be allowed. Redgrave, however, sounds like she’s having a ball, as the Greater Dane, the supreme leader of a master race of canines from the deepest reaches of outer space. When a scout sent from the dogs’ home planet crash-lands in a suburban Vancouver neighborhood, he’s quickly taken in and renamed Hubble by pipsqueak local loner Owen (Aiken), just the sort of young scamp who knows the names of all the local dogs and longs for one of his own. That’s a tough one, since mom and dad (SNL expats Shannon and Nealon) make a living buying, renovating, and reselling houses, meaning the family is always on the go, and Owen must leave behind the friends he makes roughly as soon as he makes them. Hubble (voiced by Broderick), then, is a wish come true, albeit one operating under a shaggy ruse: He’s been sent to find out why none of the supercanines deposited on Earth thousands of years ago have checked in with home base, since they’re supposed to be ruling the planet. It's tough on a paramilitary canine society when members of their own kennel go awry, and thus it's no surprise that Hubble initially reacts to all the hugging, petting, and stick-throwing as something akin to species suicide. But like the good boy(!) he so clearly is, he quickly adapts to the world of human masters and in short order has the other dogs – Italian greyhound Nelly (Murphy), Bernese mountain dog Shep (Reiner), haughty poodle Barbara Ann (Burke), and boxer Wilson (Faison) – eating out of his, um, bowl. He also, more to the point, gives Liam the ability to understand what dogs are saying, which opens a window into just the sort of butt-sniffing jokes you might expect. A product of Jim Henson Productions, Good Boy! is only as charming as you are willing to be charmed. It’s ingratiating in that nice doggie way, but the dogs, who have had their lips enhanced via CGI to aid in the illusion of speech, don’t have much more on their minds than where the next stick is going to sail in from. Far more interesting was Warner Bros.’ similarly themed Cats and Dogs two years ago, which took the age-old battle between the species into giddy new realms. All Good Boy! can muster is a frantic tail-wag and a piddle on the paper by comparison. (That and a heck of a lot of ground level tracking shots.)
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