Andy Bockelman: ‘Old Dogs’ needs to be put to sleep
December 7, 2009
Rating: 1 out of 4 stars
Running time: 88 minutes
Starring: Robin Williams, John Travolta, Kelly Preston and Rita Wilson.
There have been plenty of memorable dog characters in movies, from Rin Tin Tin to Lassie to Benji. While "Old Dogs" isn't actually about a canine, it's comparable to a mangy cur that licks itself for hours on end and is no longer housebroken.
Dan Rayburn and Charlie Reed (Robin Williams, John Travolta) are the toast of the New York sports marketing world. But besides being business partners, they're also lifelong best buddies who are there for each other in times of crisis.
So, when Dan meets up with his ex, Vicki (Kelly Preston) and learns that he is the father of 6-year-old fraternal twins (Ella Bleu Travolta, Conner Rayburn), Charlie is obligated to help when Dan becomes their caretaker for a fortnight. Still, Dan isn't really the "dad" type, and Charlie's apartment is by no means kid-friendly. But with a little effort and a lot of patience, maybe these longtime bachelors will be able to learn something about family life.
If they can survive the two week period.
Williams is spectacularly unfunny in a poorly realized straight man role that only gets stupider and stupider as he accidentally kicks a kid in the face with a soccer ball, gets a tattoo across his chest in a drunken escapade and gets his skin almost permanently bronzed.
And that's before he even meets his kids.
Travolta is even worse as the kind of middle-aged, happy-go-lucky, yet finicky horndog sidekick everybody loves to hate. It's some kind of lame fusion of two more famous Uncle Charlies, namely from "Family Affair" and "Two and a Half Men."
The funniest thing about his presence is how often he's mistaken for a grandpa, even more amusing considering the fact that it's his own daughter — with wife Preston — playing one of the twins. The younger Travolta is a cute even moppet for her first movie, paired with more seasoned child actor Rayburn, but that's probably because there are so many worse duos to be found.
There's Matt Dillon and Justin Long as an over-aggressive father-son scout team, Dax Shepard and Luis Guzman as two of the most domineering childproof experts ever seen, and let's not forget about Preston as the twins' scarily dedicated mother and Rita Wilson as her best friend Jenna, a hand model who seems to have a stigmatism that appears and goes away at will.
If it doesn't make sense to you, don't worry: No one else understands it either.
When the story isn't being completely nonsensical — Why does Dan need a metal exoskeleton with electrical impulses controlled by Charlie to have a tea party with his daughter? — it's just downright insulting.
The lazy writing and corny sentiment are to be expected in this kind of misfire, but there are just too many horrid moments to pick a true loser. Between our heroes rubbing bear scat on their faces for a no-holds-barred Ultimate Frisbee game and their junior business partner (Seth Green) getting whacked in the crotch with a golf ball, there's no limit to the cheap laughs.
But it's when things try to get sweet that it gets objectionable. Every attempt at being engaging is completely insincere, and while the actors may look like they're having fun, it's just woeful for the audience.
Considering the cast of "Old Dogs," it's all the more embarrassing. Aside from the tragedy that the late Bernie Mac's swan song had to be under the guise of a character named Jimmy Lunchbox: Master Puppeteer, it's an all-around humiliation for everyone involved.
In a word: woof.