Movie Review By Nike Chillemi
I couldn’t believe my ears! I tuned into one of those morning shows as the perky blonde sitting between two handsome newsreaders discussed current movies. They gave thumbs up to one about cannibalism — as well as to one with a lesbian character, an adulterous affair, and physical violence within a family. Why am I surprised? They said Old Dogs was simplistic in its humor.
That’s not what Spence thought. I don’t personally know Spence. He’s about eleven and was sitting in front of our family, the Friday after Thanksgiving, laughing his head off at all the movie’s high jinks. It was the four o’clock show, the theatre was packed with preteen kids, and during coming attractions another boy called out stuff like, “Hey Spence, what kind of candy did you get?” You get an idea of the crowd.
Old Dogs gave me the feeling it was the cinematic child of a cross between Caddyshack and The Parent Trap. Dan (Robin Williams) and Charlie (John Travolta) were childhood chums who stayed friends and started a successful sports marketing company together. Dan, the fussbudget numbers guy, went through a divorce and the wilder Charlie took him to “celebrate” in Florida. Under-the-influence Dan got a huge tattoo on his chest and married Vicki (Kelly Preston), a complete stranger.
It’s seven years later, the marriage was annulled, and Dan and Charlie are embarking on the biggest business deal of their lives. They’re not much into kids. Charlie’s got Lucky, an incontinent dog he dotes on and Dan’s got Charlie, who’s kind of a kid himself. One day, Vicki makes contact, prompted by an 11-page letter from Dan written in a lonely moment. Guess what? Dan has two seven-year-old fraternal twins, Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta) and Zach (Conner Rayburn).
The deal is Vicki staged a one-woman environmental protest in her neighborhood, was arrested and is going to jail for two weeks. Due to a comedy of errors, she needs a babysitter. Dan volunteers to watch his children, enlisting the help of Charlie. I found Emily’s wish to be protected by her dad (fantasizing he is a super hero) and Zach’s Dad’s List touching.
High on the Dad’s List is a camping trip, so Dan and Charlie take their laptops and Blackberries and go to a Pioneer Camp father-child weekend. Now the movie shifts into slapstick with a no holds barred dad’s Frisbee game. Every time Charlie’s face got smashed into the dirt, little Spence in front of us, screamed with laughter. Unfortunately, the uncoordinated Dan winds up setting the camp on fire. The emotionally inept duo is late for the twin’s birthday party at a local zoo. Finding the main gate locked, they get the bright idea to break in. During the break-in, penguins attack them, and a gorilla holds their young business associate captive. Dan decides to emulate a super hero, flying into the party area using some type of jet-propelled device, and plummets into a pond. He has to be taken out by ambulance.
Dan and Charlie have a peculiar, but genuine friendship. This is a 21-century commercial film and so the two are mistaken several times as partners, not the business kind. The references are light. There are several golfing crotch shots. Charlie makes unsuccessful moves on several women. Being men of a certain age, they take cholesterol meds and the like, which have side effects. The lovely blonde interpreter (Lori Loughlin) working with them on their big deal, invites Charlie to a bereavement group, where a side-effect induced frozen smile overtakes his face, and he is attacked by the group’s leader (Ann Margaret). In the epilogue, married to the interpreter, he holds their baby. “Oh God,” is exclaimed a few times, “gosh” a half-dozen times. Dan and Charlie drink on their spree in Florida and later toast with champagne. There are a few bathroom jokes.
In the end, family and fatherhood are the main themes of the movie, as well as sacrificial friendship and loyalty, albeit of a sometimes-moronic variety. It’s a hilariously silly, laugh out loud movie.