Old Dogs
dir Walt Becker
scr David Diamond, David Weissman
prd Peter Abrams, Robert L Levy, Andrew Panay
with John Travolta, Robin Williams, Ella Bleu Travolta, Conner Rayburn, Kelly Preston, Seth Green, Rita Wilson, Matt Dillon, Bernie Mac, Justin Long, Ann-Margret, Amy Sedaris
release US 25.Nov.09, UK 19.Mar.10
09/US Disney 1h28
Old Dogs
Camp it up: Williams and Travolta

preston green wilson
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Old Dogs To call this comedy a disaster is an understatement. It's aggressively awful, and manages to push its worst gags so numbingly off the scale that we're left slack-jawed in disbelief. Amazingly, the cast members just about get out alive.

Charlie and Dan (Travolta and Williams) are old pals and partners as sports publicists. Charlie is a relentless bachelor, teasing Dan about his impulsive, brief Vegas marriage to Vicki (Preston) eight years earlier. What neither of them knows is that Vicki gave birth to Dan's twins (Ella Bleu Travolta and Rayburn), and now she needs him to watch them for two weeks. Nutty antics ensue as these cute kids upset these men's life, dragging them off for a weekend camping trip and of course slowly winning them over in the process.

Becker (who also directed the dire WILD HOGS) keeps everything sunny and jaunty, straining in every scene to create something that's absolutely hilarious. But since the strain shows, each scene falls utterly flat. The entire A-list cast overacts wildly (including cameo players like Dax Shepherd and Luis Guzman), but the biggest hams are Travolta and Williams. And in the worst sequence, Travolta's gurning grin is digitally augmented into something truly hideous.

All of these cartoonish performances only make the script's contrived slapstick even worse, with a series of big set pieces (the crazy picnic, the virtual reality game gone wrong, the gorilla enclosure) that might have seemed hilarious on paper. But Becker's clumsy direction and the actors' relentless mugging leave the film feeling like a bad comedy sketch. Especially since the most sophisticated humour in the movie centres on someone getting smacked and falling down.

There's actually a whiff of what this could have been in a small scene in which Charlie and Dan compare their physical ailments. Unfortunately this is merely ham-fisted set-up for one of the ridiculous set pieces. In fact, all of the jokes in this film are of the cheap variety, and then the script has the nerve to lay on a sickening swell of sentimentality as Dan magically becomes a real dad in the end. It's not like we didn't know that would happen.

cert pg themes, vulgarity, violence 10.Mar.10

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