Hey folks, Harry here... Massawyrm has gone stark raving looney tunes. Or more likely pure silly symphonies, since he's blowing the dog pic from the mouse house. If you've been thinking about taking your mutts, it seems that according to this wacko, there's a .0002% chance that you'll agree with him. You see, one time when little Wyrm had hopped out of the shower, he remembered he'd left his 10 sided dice out under the big tree in the backyard with his pack of cigarettes. The family dog had at him, but to bury the memory, and hide the scar.... he just pretended it was an Irish Priest. Thus the shaggy dog legend came to be poignant to him. Here... I'll let him explain...
Hola all. Massawyrm here. You know, being the kid in the back of the Ain’t it Cool bus (admittedly, it’s a short bus) means jumping on a lot of grenades. It means taking a lot of bullets. It means going to movies like The Shaggy Dog. Willfully. And it also means answering a lot of questions – mostly one word questions. “So what are you seeing tonight?” “The Shaggy Dog.” “Why?” “Because no one else will.” “I know that. But, why? Isn’t there paint drying somewhere that could use a review?” “Yes, and I believe it was directed by Lars Von Trier. So I’m going to see the Shaggy Dog.” “Why?”
You see, as some talkbacker somewhere (up way past his bedtime) is more than ready to announce, The Shaggy Dog isn’t Cool News. It’s a Disney film. A Disney Live Action Film. And those stopped being cool ages ago, right? Well, first of all, while I’m about to go into a coffee induced rant about Disney here in a moment let me preface it with two points. One, it’s not the rant you think it’s going to be. And two, Geeks have kids too, and not a family film that I review goes by without at least a few e-mails trickling in from concerned geek parents double checking whether or not the film is right for their children. And if you don’t have kids, I’ve got a crisp $5 bill in my pocket that says your mind is already made up about The Shaggy Dog. So there are only three reasons you might be reading this. 1) You’re a parent trying to find out if you can stomach this instead of dropping the kids off while you buy two tickets for The Hills Have Eyes 2) you’re my mother or 3) You’re hoping to read a scathing, giggle worthy review validating your presumptions. Unless of course Harry posted a headline about me liking it, at which point you’re reading this to find out just how far off the deep end I’ve gone.
Because, as it turns out, I actually liked this quite a bit.
I know. I know. I saw that trailer too. I know it’s a Live Action Tim Allen Movie (but he did do GalaxyQuest, so throw that argument right out the window.) I know it’s a Disney film. And yet, it’s pink slip time at Disney. Seriously. Time to fire some knuckleheads. No, not top brass. Not the director. Not whoever is heading up the live action feature department. Marketing. Can ‘em. All of ‘em. Seriously. You see, somewhere along the line, sometime very recently in fact, someone at Disney smacked themselves upside the head and said “Holy shit! We’re Disney. We’re not supposed to be making KIDDIE films. We’re supposed to be making FAMILY films.” There’s a big difference. And from a studio that seemed to put out a solid film only when it could sneak it out the back door, we’re now getting a fairly steady stream of really enjoyable, classic style Disney offerings. Hell, my favorite film of last year (not the best, but the one I’ve watched more than any other and has become my new ‘comfort’ film) is Sky High, a perfect little Superhero movie that if you’re a geek and you haven’t seen it, well you owe it to yourself to do so. Eight Below, Glory Road, Chronicles of Narnia – all very good family films – even Herbie: Fully Loaded turned out to be a great little Herbie film. No, as it turns out someone at the Mouse House has dedicated themselves toward rebuilding the classic Disney brand name when it comes to features films. And they’re doing it film by film. But nobody told marketing. They apparently still think they’re selling crappy kids movies. The Shaggy Dog trailer is a perfect example of this.
Where the hell is Craig Kilborn? No, I know he’s not a big part of the film. I know the kids don’t know who he is. But their parents do. And many of them like him. Sure he’s just doing his Hollywood Jerk routine that he did for 5 years on late night television – but in the role of the asshole neighbor it’s perfect, and managed to make both the kids and the adults laugh, sometimes with just a clever one liner. They couldn’t have slipped one of those in there? Okay, fine. Make excuses. How about Danny Glover? Yes, another minor character, but someone who manages to add a touch of class to this. Couldn’t have a solid shot of him in this, either? What about Jane “you ignorant slut” Curtain as the judge. The trailer had courtroom scenes. They could have given us a moment with Jane that was long enough to recognize her so those of us over the age of thirty could go “Holy Crap! She’s in this too?” Alright, fine. I’m naming well cast small characters. Hardly a major selling point. But riddle me this, Batman. Where the FUCK is Robert Downey Jr. in that trailer? Seriously. He’s all over this thing. He’s the freaking villain for Christ’s sake. And he’s funny. Really funny. He’s doing his classic neurotic routine, only amped up and over exaggerated for the kids. And it’s classic stuff, Grade A material, much of which is very trailer worthy. They couldn’t show the parents Robert Downey Jr. being funny for a few seconds to convince them to come see it with their kids? No?
No. No. They wanted to show us 2 solid minutes of Stupid Human Tricks. And those are the parts of the film that just don’t work. Most of the time. For the parents. Because despite my distaste for these sequences, and probably despite yours, these antics had the kids positively howling. Sure, that’s not exactly the hardest thing to do, but this was some serious enjoyment on the part of the kids that I’m talking about. Frankly, I’ve never seen an audience of kids go so bugfuck crazy for a film. Any film. And when the film sunk to what I as a viewer considered the absolute low – actually playing “Who let the dogs out” during a sequence of stupid human tricks, my eyes rolled so far to the back of my head that I suffered optic nerve damage. But not the kids. No. They were on their feet, clapping, stomping and singing along like it was a fucking Raffi concert. It was unreal. There was plenty retarded here. Jokes about lifting the leg at the urinal, butt smelling and direct pandering with Tim Allen uttering “To Infinity and Beyond.” And I hated every single one of these. But the kids loved it.
But certainly, if I said I really liked this it can’t be just because the kids loved it and it had a great cast. Nope. I liked it because when it wasn’t pulling the stupid human shtick, it was actually, honestly, being funny. Funny in a very Animaniacs sort of way. Yes, yes. I know. I’m invoking a pretty powerful comparison. But really. There’s Animaniacs level humor in here. The trailer just didn’t bother to show it to you. While most films aimed at the “Family” treat the kids to stupid humor, the adults are usually left with nothing but Post-Modern movie riffs within a movie (Yeah, Dreamworks Animation – I’m looking at you.) Here, everything post-modern (which admittedly isn’t much) is entirely geared at the kids. The adults are treated to a stream of off the cuff, sharply written remarks that honestly, were laugh out loud funny. There’s even a family friendly prison rape joke, if you can imagine such a thing, that almost made me fall out of my chair. I laughed. A lot. And hard. At the Shaggy Dog. And I wasn’t alone. Seriously, I’m as surprised as you.
Bust on Tim Allen all you want, but I’m actually starting to warm up to his Disney dealings. If there’s one thing I took away from the passing of the great and beloved Don Knotts, it’s an admiration for those who mostly dedicate their career to family entertainment. Go back and look at the talkbacks and all the news coverage of his passing. How many mentions do you see of his role in the ribald and very popular for its time Three’s Company? Or his rare, more dramatic TV or film work? Not much if at all. No. People talked about Barney Fife. They talked about the Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Apple Dumpling Gang, No Deposit No Return. His Disney work. And honestly, I see a lot of parallels between Knotts and Allen. I mean, they both built entire careers out of playing lovable, bumbling, family-friendly oafs on long running television shows, then in film. And the kids just love him. I imagine that 30, 40, maybe 50 years from now, when Tim Allen passes on, he will be remembered with the same fondness by generations who grew up with him, with the same mention of his Disney work he gets so scathingly mocked for now. And if AICN is still around, I’m certain Harry (or whoever has taken the reins from him) will post about it with the headline “To Infinity and Beyond, Buzz Lightyear – The Shaggy Dog has gone to Doggy Heaven.” Because this is that role for Tim Allen. This is where his antics are put to their very best. Despite my not enjoying most of the Stupid Human Shtick, I have to admit there were some parts of it that made me laugh. Not all of it only worked for kids. And I honestly feel that even the parts I didn’t like wouldn’t have been as effective with the kids with a lesser comedic actor – someone not as adept with the oft looked down upon art of physical comedy. Tim Allen plays the lovable oaf better than anyone else out there right now – and while not everyone enjoys that kind of humor, there’s a large market that does. And most of them will whine to their parents about seeing this until mom and dad finally relent. And that audience will be very pleased.
But Allen isn’t alone in this comedic endeavor. Robert Downey Jr. is absolutely classic. Coupled with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Downey has shown that he’s back in a big way and just as good as he ever was. Jane Curtain and Craig Kilborn steal every scene they’re in, each making the most out of their limited screen time. And the mutant animals, oh dear God, despite being ridiculous taken out of context in the trailer, prove to be both adorable and really, honestly hilarious – when they’re not being WTF bizarre.
I couldn’t believe what I was watching. This isn’t some knock off Disney remake trying to make a little cash by taking a defibrillator to the corpse of well-remembered Disney property. No. It’s a genuine update that captures the spirit of the two original films (this is actually more of a remake of The Shaggy DA rather than the Shaggy Dog) and in some places actually improves upon it. It’s impossible to hate this film. What works for the kids REALLY works for the kids. What works for the adults REALLY works for the adults. No one walked out without a smile on their face. Kids were screaming “That was Awesome!” and begging their parents if they could watch it again right then and there. The adults were laughing and remarking “Wow, I can’t believe that was so good.”
And it was. And Disney needs to fire their marketing department. The Disney brand is back. Sure, it took half a dozen films to convince me, but at least for the time being Disney to me means solid, classic style family entertainment. I can feel good taking my nephews to a live action Disney film I haven’t seen and be confident that we’ll probably have a good time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not recommending The Shaggy Dog to everyone. Like I said, it’s not perfect. And for those of you without kids I can only recommend it if you already have a disposition towards family films. Otherwise, I don’t think I need to tell you to avoid this. But for those of you with kids that are no doubt already howling and begging to see it, go with them – don’t just drop them off. This is the type of family film you can all enjoy together, and you can experience that feeling your parents had a generation ago taking you to see the classic live action Disney movies of old. It’s good, entertaining, and a rare thing indeed – a movie parents and kids can get the same level of enjoyment out of – even if they’re laughing at completely different things.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. I know I will.
If you're into a Shaggy Dog fantasy, but just won't delve into bestiality, I can hook you up with Harry... he likes it ruff ruff!