Release Date: March 10, 2006
Rating: PG (mild rude humor)
Run Time: 98 min.
Director: Brian Robbins
Actors: Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Spencer Breslin, Danny Glover, Robert Downey Jr.
After “The Santa Clause”, "The Santa Clause Two” and now, “The Shaggy Dog,” Tim Allen seems to have the whole changing-into-a-much-hairier-version-of-himself shtick down to a science. And while this may not speak well of his range as an actor, he does manage to provide quite a few laughs as he transforms back and forth from a human to man’s best friend in this remake of the 1959 classic.
But before he’s getting in touch with his canine side, we discover that Allen’s character, Dave, is a workaholic attorney who doesn’t have much time for his family. And with an opportunity to launch a campaign for district attorney after prosecuting his daughter Carly’s (Zena Grey) popular social studies teacher (and animal activist) Justin Forrester (Joshua Leonard) for the alleged arson of a medical research compound, the extended time away from home doesn’t look to change anytime soon.
Also keeping life interesting on the home front is Carly’s belief in the innocence of her teacher. Even when she’s sporting a “Free Justin Forrester, Stop Dave Douglas” t-shirt, her dad still doesn’t believe Justin’s claims that he’s witnessed animal cruelty and genetic mutation at that mysterious lab.
But that’ll soon change with one dog bite.
After Carly and her boyfriend stumble upon an adorable sheepdog while wandering around for evidence to support their teacher’s claim, they bring “Shaggy” home, much to the chagrin of their dog-loathing dad. And Shaggy doesn’t seem to think much of Dave either as he bites him on the spot, inevitably causing a transformation where Dave not only learns the truth about the case, but a lot more about his family in the process.
The next few scenes provide some of the movie’s best comedic moments as Dave’s canine tendencies unexpectedly start to surface. Whether he’s chasing the belt of his own bathrobe, eating his cereal face first while his son Josh (Spencer Breslin) stares at him in bewilderment or barking “my yard, my yard” at the neighbor’s pug, you can’t help but laugh, even as far-fetched as this all is. Even funnier are the moments in the courtroom where the judge (Jane Curtin) is forced to warn Dave “not to growl at opposing counsel” as he’s trying to prove Justin’s guilt.
And a movie wouldn’t be complete with the requisite scene-stealer, right? This time around that honor goes to Robert Downey Jr., who plays Dr. Kozak, the evil, opportunistic research doctor behind all the animal cruelty and genetic engineering. Without giving essential plot points away, his twisted behavior is simply hilarious in each of his scenes.
Director Brian Robbins, known more as a producer, also does a great job of executing the unbelievable storyline with believable animatronic effects to convince us that Shaggy is really Dave in disguise. And while a few moments are predictable, particularly when the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out” is used as the soundtrack for doggie hi-jinks, the modern-day version of the film works well.
What doesn’t work quite as well, however, is the romantic side of the story, particularly because of the lack of chemistry between Allen and his movie wife, Rebecca (Kristin Davis). It doesn’t help that she’s been relegated to so few lines, and trite ones at that. But she also doesn’t deliver the same emotional punch that her two children do when longing for more connection with the most important man in their lives. Unlike her children, particularly Josh who’d rather star in the school musical than play football like his father did – but is afraid to tell him – we never learn much about Rebecca, let alone what she really wants for the relationship.
But that misstep aside, there’s ultimately an important message in all the mayhem, even if it’s one we’ve heard before in the likes of "It’s A Wonderful Life", "The Family Man" and countless others: the importance of family is immeasurable. And for Dave, it took a dog’s life for him to finally figure it out.
AUDIENCE: Ages 6 and up
- Drugs/Alcohol: Rebecca has a glass of wine with dinner. Dave jokingly asks his assistant if she’s been drinking.
- Language/Profanity: None, other than a few mildly crude (by today’s standards) references that involve a dog’s tendency to sniff each other (and people, too) in “personal” areas.
- Sex/Nudity: When Dave transforms from a dog back to a human, he returns naked. But nothing below the chest is shown.
- Violence: A man is injected with a paralyzing serum and experiences convulsions. Both Dave and Dr. Kozak are bit by Shaggy. Dr. Kozak threatens to cut Dave up “like a birthday cake,” snip his nose off and open him up. Several people are shocked with an electrically-charged cattle prod and fall to the floor.