See Spot Run
Rated PG, 95 min. Directed by John Whitesell. Starring Paul Sorvino, Anthony Anderson, Steven R. Schirripa, Angus T. Jones, Joe Viterelli, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, David Arquette.
See Spot Run is the kind of witless comedy that plays its all-ages audience like a concertina, expecting them to laugh together at animal flatulence and bitten-off testicles and cry together at an ersatz, heart-tugging conclusion. Kids' movies just don't get much more by-the-numbers than this live-action cartoon, which somehow manages to lower the bar for the "smart dog/stupid human" subgenre, already scraping the ground thanks to entries like 1995's Top Dog (Chuck Norris meets loveable Briard) and 1989's middling K-9 (Jim Belushi meets intrepid German shepherd). Slovenly, cynophobic Seattle postman Gordon (Arquette) pines boorishly for his neighbor, a willowy single mom (Bibb of TV's Popular, struggling in vain to make the character spring into three dimensions) with a nebbishy tot (Jones). So when increasingly contrived circumstances strand her outside of town on a never-ending business trip, Gordon takes the kid in, feeding him Cap'n Crunch and teaching him to use texturizing gel. Meanwhile, savvy G-dog Agent Eleven (animal actor Bob) and his FBI partners (foremost among them Duncan) bust a crime lord (Sorvino), who orders his two goombahs (Scirripa and Viterelli) to “put the whack on the pooch.” One botched hit and several mechanical plot twists later, Agent Eleven is hiding out in Gordon's bachelor pad strewn with Chee-tos, charming boy and man alike while the Mafiosi lumber along in bumbling pursuit. Co-screenwriter and scenarist George Gallo (Double Take) cooks up a dog's breakfast of a farce plot, throwing in inter-racial buddy hijinks for good measure (courtesy of zaftig cutup Anderson, who somehow gives the film a much-needed bit of warmth). There's even a perfunctory romance between Duncan and a thinly drawn female colleague who appears briefly in a peignoir (and whose character is inexplicably named Agent Cassavetes, as if to cause special pain to critics and snooty cinephiles). The script is simultaneously boring and breathlessly busy, and it really gives Arquette a beating, as scene after scene subjects him to electrocution, dog attack, encasement in bubble wrap, public pantlessness, assault by the hearing-impaired, a fishbowl on the head, and gluteal paralysis caused by poisonous sea urchins. It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for the guy. But the real question is how the film's producers (including Robert Simonds, driver of many an Adam Sandler vehicle) can pass this strenuously mediocre and joyless effort off as family fare just because it's puerile.
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