Shaggy Dog (The)
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Jarrod Baker (31st August 2006).
The Film

Robert Downey Jr. is widely regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation. Of course, like many great artists, his career has been complicated with setbacks, most notably a prolonged substance abuse problem which culminated in a 3 year prison sentence. Since then he has apparently cleaned up his act, and has been working steadily.
If there was any justice in the world, however, Downey would be immediately sent back to prison for his most recent and most heinous crime - pissing away his prodigious talent in order to play the villain in "The Shaggy Dog".
Basically, the film is an unnecessary and unfunny remake of a film that to many accounts wasn't that great the first time around (elements of the original 1959 film and its sequel, "The Shaggy D.A" (1976), have been 'borrowed' for this new film). Sure, it's a kid's film - but that somehow makes it even worse, especially given that this time around they've tacked on a pretty much incomprehensible anti-animal-testing back story which involves the armed militia of a multinational pharmaceutical company undertaking a helicopter raid into Tibet - all in order to kidnap an ancient Himalayan dog so they can discover its secret to longevity.
In the original films, the protagonists' canine transformations were explained by magic. This time around, the filmmakers have elected to explain it with some fake science, taking away any sense of the fantastic. Back in the US, the dog escapes captivity, and bites Assistant District Attorney Dave Douglas (Tim Allen), who from that point on turns into a dog at inopportune moments. This is "explained" with some crappy CGI showing millions of tiny dogs coursing through his bloodstream after the bite. They could have (and should have) saved the CGI budget and stuck with the magical explanation, because that would have been much more believable.
It's tempting to give movies aimed at children or "family" movies the benefit of the doubt - to judge them less harshly than a film aimed at adults. This temptation should be resisted as there are countless examples of family movies that are also rewarding viewing for an adult audience, the films from Pixar are a great example of this. "The Shaggy Dog" is not one of those films and in fact it should probably be judged MORE harshly, given that it is entirely possible that the sight of a dog with Tim Allen's eyes (an image repeated in the poster for the movie) could quite possibly scar a child for life.
It's not hard to understand Allen's involvement in this picture, given previous works like "The Santa Clause" (1994) and "The Santa Clause 2" (2002). Likewise Kristin Davis, whose work outside of "Sex and the City" (1998-2004) has mostly involved forgettable bit parts. Danny Glover's presence is harder to understand, for those of us who remember his sterling work in the original "Lethal Weapon" (1987), but then again his star has faded somewhat. But Robert Downey Jr's presence is a mystery. Had he run up some new and massive drug debts? Is he a gambler? Had he been stung by some dodgy investment deals? Because surely he must have needed money pretty badly in order to sign on for this.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen this disc also boasts a 'family friendly' 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer as well. The fullscreen transfer is the default transfer and plays automatically, so if you'd like to view the theatrical ratio you'll have to select it from the menu. For the purposes of this review I have chosen to view the film in it's original ratio. This anamorphic transfer will likely please most viewers, however the image is somewhat flat. While the image is generally clean, and colors are well rendered especially skin tones, I found the transfer average at best. Definition and detail isn't as deep as one would like to see from such a recent film. This would have something to do with Disney squeezing both wide and fullscreen transfers on the same disc.

Audio

This film includes three audio tracks. We get an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround (which can be found on both versions), a French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround both of which are only available on the fullscreen version. I chose to view this film with its English 5.1 track and found this to be a pleasing experience. The surrounds were all active when necessary and exhibited an appropriate range and depth this film required. Additionally dialogue is clear and distortion free. As far as 5.1 tracks go this is a fine example.
Optional subtitles are also included in English, French and Spanish.

Extras

First up we have a feature-length audio commentary by director Brian Robbins and producer David Hoberman. The director comments on the CGI and special effects quite a bit, location shooting as well considering the opening takes place in the Himalayas yet was shot in parts of California and digital mattes were used to make the background match what you'd see in the Himalayas. Although the participants occasionally comment on the plot, script and cast these are kept quite minimal and what they have to say is largely uninteresting. Other topics include what the studio expected and some concerns they had with minor issue involved with this re-inventing of this classic Disney film. The director comments on how polished the script is, or rather that some work was done to make it better but having seen this film I can't really agree with most of his comments. I also noticed that for what is essentially a kids movie this track has nothing that would interest a kid and seems aimed more at older viewers and adults but in all honestly I can't imagine an adult actually being interested in seeing this movie let alone interested enough to see it again with this commentary.

A series of 4 deleted scenes are also included on this disc and can be viewed individually or with the option of a Play All feature. The scenes included are:

- Kozak and Strictland which runs for 1 minute 40 seconds, in this scene Kozak reports to Strictland as they talk privately in an elevator.
- Additional Dog Park runs for 1 minute 13 seconds, here the Shaggy Dog tries to talk to a bunch of dogs but all they're interested in is sniffing his butt.
- Gwen and Harry runs for 27 seconds, while locked up in a cage Harry tells Gwen that he is attracted to her all of a sudden.
- Alternate Ending for Kozak runs for 56 seconds, in the courtroom Kozak turns into a dog and gets taken into custody.

A blooper reel is also featured and runs for 2 minutes 35 seconds, this basically consists of Tim Allen acting stupid and includes some line flubs and animals not doing what they are told, some kids might find this amusing but there is nothing here worth repeat viewing.

An interactive feature is included entitled "Bark-Along Bone-us" a sing-a-long feature there are two clips included one for digs to bark to and one for humans to sing-along to both versions run for 2 minutes 23 seconds and feature the same video of footage from the film and other footage of dogs barking.

Rounding out the extras is a bonus trailer for "Meet the Robinsons" which runs for 52 seconds and is a start-up preview that can be skipped.

Overall

The Film: D Video: B Audio: A Extras: D+ Overall: C

 


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