The Shaggy Dog

The Shaggy Dog

2006, PG, 98 min. Directed by Brian Robbins. Starring Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Zena Grey, Spencer Breslin, Danny Glover, Robert Downey Jr., Philip Baker Hall, Craig Kilborn.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 10, 2006

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Disney’s original 1959 version of this “dog bites man bites dog” tale, thanks in large part to the retro-iconic status afforded the great Fred MacMurray, who parlayed the bewildered-but-lovable pop schtick better than anyone this side of my own father (this quite apart from the genius of Double Indemnity). Adding the dreamy Annette Funicello to the mix (and let’s be honest –there’s no more apt adjective for Disney’s once and future Queen of the Beach) just made Disney’s first live-action family comedy feature all the more attractive. Nowadays the original seems all the more surreal, but viewed through the cinematic blinders of Generation X and beyond, the story of a lovesick teen morphing into a drooling mound of fluff was and is oh-so-apropos. Surprisingly, this remake, which shuffles the original teencentric storyline into one more focused on the harried workaday world of overachieving adults and misplaced familial priorities, is an above-average mouthful of cinematic kibble. As Los Angeles' star district attorney Dave Douglas, Allen mines his borderline insufferable Everyman quirkiness (thankfully going light in the grating, faux-folksy wisdom and attending homilies) and finds a suitable home for it in the shape of Shaggy, a “Tibetan Wonder Dog” who has been kidnapped from his monastery – where he divides his doggy days between Buddhist prayer sessions and pickup games of fetch with the young monks-in-training (a mixed blessing, the “peeing on the mandala” gag never arrived) – by evil pharmaceutical-company mouthpiece Dr. Kozak (Downey Jr/, in a heretofore untapped Snidely Whiplash mode). Allen’s D.A., who’s midway through prosecuting an Animal Liberation Front-type case and drawing the ire of his idealistic offspring (Grey, Breslin) and wife (Davis) because of it, is bitten by the mystical canine and promptly begins turning into a dog (as opposed to dawg) whenever someone sails a Frisbee or yells, “Sit!” I’ve never particularly warmed to Allen’s broad, Home Improvement line of comedy, but he does dog just fine. One particularly choice sequence has him discovering the overwhelming olfactory sense canines possess, and to the credit of the film’s multiple screenwriters (I counted five, but there were likely more) there’s nary a leg-hump in sight. Will the superlative D.A. and bad dad be reformed in time to see the error of his ways (and just as important, will he figure out that his only son would rather sing the lead in the school production of Grease than be a star tailback? Do dogs rock? They do indeed.) There are precious few surprises here, but parents will find director Robbins’ breezy remake a painless affair and, judging by the yowls of laughter from the peanut gallery at the screening I attended, the kids will be barking all the way home. (Generally a good thing, considering the alternatives.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Brian Robbins Films
A Thousand Words
Eddie Murphy plays a truth-challenged literary agent who learns his lesson when a bizarre set of circumstances allow him to utter only 1,000 words before dying.

Kimberley Jones, March 16, 2012

Meet Dave
Eddie Murphy reteams with his Norbit director for this new extraterrestrial comedy in which miniature aliens operate a spaceship that has a human form.

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 18, 2008

More by Marc Savlov
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Welcome back, Mister Wick: Everyone's favorite merciless killer gets more human and more intriguing

May 17, 2019

Carmine Street Guitars
Spend time with the quiet artisans who make the instruments that rock & roll is built upon

May 10, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Shaggy Dog, Brian Robbins, Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Zena Grey, Spencer Breslin, Danny Glover, Robert Downey Jr., Philip Baker Hall, Craig Kilborn

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle