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STUDIO: First Look Studios
MSRP: $19.98
RATED: PG
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
• On Location
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video


The Pitch

“This dog tears EVERYTHING apart & brings one family together!”

 

Considering “EVERYTHING” was in bold in the tagline, I was expecting some couch-eating carnage. Lies.


The Humans

Jon Gries (Lazlo!), Cynthia Watros (Lost DUI!), Garrett Morris (SNL MIA!), a couple of pre-pube actors, and occasionally a Bull Mastiff.



Wolf Man had nards… until he traded them for a pink polo, cellphone belt-clip, sandals, and a hammock.


The Nutshell

The cliché cadre of characters (workaholic Dad, depressed Mom, Daughter with a crush, Son who’s desperate for a friend) goes on a family vacation in a wooded community where a wild animal has been BUM BUM BAAAAH… knocking over garbage cans. Fortunately, the only Grouch (SCRAM!) harmed was me, the viewer.

The Lowdown
This review contains SPOILERSZZZZZhuhwhat? Nope. Just resting my eyeszzzz…

 

I volunteered for this review (not my 1st dog movie roasting). My daughter and I like animal tales. We’re dog owners of a rescued Rottie mix. I even get choked up during the heart-punching Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials. I’m a sucker for (don’t tell my wife) sad eyes and a sloppy tongue, but this direct-to-vid family film fails on the most fundamental levels… like earning audience emotion and especially interest.




“Your alibi checks out, Mr. Head-full-o’-sawdust. Sorry for the trouble. We’ll be down at the local college harassing the school mascot, if you have any additional information.”

 

I understand the film-makers’ intention of wanting to introduce the beast via a cute faux-mystery, but (NEWSFLASH!) when nearly a ½ hour goes by and the DOG movie hasn’t showcased the titular leg-humper yet, the kids may get restless (as my daughter did). I also commend the writers for wanting to flesh out the family, giving each and every one of them conflict and goals (trite as they may be), but they shouldn’t have, if it meant sidelining the poor pooch for the rest of the running time. Frank acts more of a background catalyst (like a silent, shoe-eating Bagger Vance), teaching everyone a valuable lesson, if indirectly, and bringing the family together through no great effort. It’s sweet, always manipulative (they even shoehorn a “will Frank be ok?” hit & run into the already sappy climax), and completely predictable. Oddly enough, it also contains a few 3’s Company innuendo moments with a nosy landlord, some furniture thumping and out-of-context exclamations (must have been the “mild suggestive material” in the warning). The DVD cover built up certain expectations in the area of focus, and dropped the squeaky toy Bigtime. Frankly, FRANK stank.




Move over “Blue Steel”. Say hello to “The Bitch”.

 

It’s hard for me to hate well-intentioned harmless family fluff (2, count em, 2 montages* set to Huey Lewis garnered some bonus points with me), considering some of the lows to which I’ve been exposed, but to be fair, this particular cinematic snooze-fest is truly the store-brand, vanilla-flavored, non-dairy frozen soy-yogurt of lovable mutt movies. It lacks the over-the-top antics of the BEETHOVEN franchise, the heart of BENJI, and the dramedy chops of TURNER AND HOOCH. Toss those flicks a Scooby Snack instead. Disney also has a mixed-breed track record with this type of material, but OLD YELLER, THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY (original), THE UGLY DACHSHUND, and the animated LADY AND THE TRAMP, FOX AND THE HOUND, 101 DALMATIANS, etc are great stories for the same demographic. Stick with those classics (UNDERDOG or 8 BELOW are Best in Show from their more recent crop) and your children should at least stay in the same room as the TV.

 


Before the West India Company brought order to the lawless 7 Seas, before teh internets, and before “Star Wars Kid”… there was SCURVY LAD!


The Package
The saccharine and folksy guitar music should come in clearly through your 5.1 speakers. The picture is adequate enough to register to your optic nerve in between extended blinks (AKA “being put to sleep”). The special features don’t add much to the proceedings, besides reminding me of how much effort it took for me to trudge through this disc (3+ sittings) and of my inability to provide a scenic and tucked-away lakeside home for my own family (producing an unhealthy dog-chow mix of boredom AND seething jealousy!). I clutched my Pound Puppy tight and wished upon the Legend of Big Paw, but the deleted scenes did not provide insight into any alternate storylines where Jon Gries’ character might WereLOLf in phonebooths or pump-fake footballs at a home video camera in his spare time.
 


4.0 out of 10








*An OCD preparatory montage to “Hip to be Square” and a photo-shoot montage set to “Working for a Living” (both featuring the geeky anal-retentive Dad). As a geeky anal-retentive Dad (and a fan of The News), I don’t know whether to be proud or offended.