Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Old Dogs

OLD DOGS (Walt Becker, 2009)

In OLD DOGS longtime best friends and sports marketing partners Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams) end up with unfamiliar seven-year-old twins in their temporary custody. Zach and Emily (Conner Rayburn and Ella Bleu Travolta) are the product of Charlie's persuasive plan of getting Dan to spend a single night out of town indulging in heavy drinking and other divorce-forgetting behavior. Seven years later, when Dan tries to rekindle something with his old one night stand (Kelly Preston), he learns that he's a dad.

Through an incredibly convoluted series of events, including the kids' mother having to do a short stint in prison and their hand model intended caretaker (Rita Wilson) being incapacitated, Dan offers to watch them while his firm deals with winning its biggest potential contract ever. Surely nothing can go wrong when two hopelessly unqualified guys try to babysit two unknown children while attempting to broker a deal with Japanese businessmen, right?

The old dogs of the title may refer to the not quite senior citizen leads, but it's a more apt description of the shopworn and laughless jokes occupying this woofer of a comedy. The threadbare screenplay is stitched together from the worst and most clich├ęd ideas to emerge from--and should be discarded during--a brainstorming session.

The immediacy with which the telegraphed punchline for each joke and scene arrives is enough to make Samuel Morse envious. The embarrassingly broad performances in OLD DOGS contain more ham than a grocery's meat department at Easter.

It's one thing to make an attempt and not succeed, but OLD DOGS doesn't muster genuine enthusiasm to give its best shot. Rather, director Walt Becker and the cast take the musty material and lack of a through line and play it to the rafters in the hope that no one will notice how vacant the film truly is.

OLD DOGS unspools like MRS. DOUBTFIRE in reverse. Extraordinary means are used to put the kids in close proximity to Williams' character. He is then supposed to bond with the lovable tykes, but the clanging and incomplete mechanical structure can't even support this feeble story. OLD DOGS needed to be put down before a frame was shot, especially when letting it linger on and become this product is thoroughly humiliating for everyone involved.

Grade: D-

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