Old Dogs -- Film Review

Since they are old dogs, there are no new tricks in Walt Disney's "Old Dogs," a shamelessly predictable, overly broad comedy aimed at the family audience starting Thanksgiving weekend. One could debate whether John Travolta or Robin Williams have reached an age to be mistaken for grandfathers, but they certain don't shy away from jokes their grandfathers would have groaned about.

Apparently, the working principle is if it's old, let's use it. There is one mild -- really, really mild -- gag that hints we are in an age that doesn't freak out that gay people exist. That's about as bold as "Old Dogs" gets. The film should play well this weekend for grandparents and youngsters, after which any staying power it demonstrates will be a tribute to the stars' names and the Disney brand.

The film resurrects the ghosts of "Kramer vs. Kramer," "3 Men and a Baby" and any other drama or comedy that congratulates men at being able to cope with young children. Travolta and Williams are the old dogs, one a happy skirt-chasing bachelor and the other a miserably twice-divorced klutz. They are sports marketing partners about to close a major deal with a Japanese firm. Then comes the bombshell -- two to be exact.

It seems Williams' character fathered fraternal twins seven years ago but only now does the mother (Kelly Preston) bother to tell him. Oh, and by the way, she is about to go to jail for two weeks for political-activist trespassing. She needs someone to baby-sit the kids since, well, Williams just sent her best girlfriend (Rita Wilson), who normally would mind the children, to the hospital due to his habitual clumsiness.

Yes, it's that contrived.

So we have Sudden Dad and Uncle Playboy mind the kids for, yes, two weeks! You'd think they'd been asked to cure cancer the way the movie stands back to admire their challenges and resolve.

Make those predictable challenges and results. If the kids mix up prescription medicine, expect a golf game to descend into balls fired into the genitals or paralyzing facial grins at bereavement services. If the men break into a zoo -- why would a zoo be locked in the middle of the day? -- expect human interactions with an amorous gorilla or enraged penguins.

When in doubt -- or in desperate need for anything cute or funny -- director Walt Becker can always cut to Travolta's dog. Yes, of course, he's old.

If reports are true that new Disney Studios chief Rich Ross has criticized "Old Dogs" as a "missed opportunity" to appeal to women by creating credible female characters, then the new dog is onto something. You don't hire an all-male team of stars, producers, exec producers, writers, a director and every below-the-line crew member and not get a dumb male movie like this.

"Old Dogs" gives men a bad name.
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