The Shaggy Dog

Posted on March 8, 2006 at 12:17 pm

A ring falls into the pants cuff worn by teenager Wilby Daniels (Tommy Kirk) while he is visiting a museum, and, not noticing, he carries it home with him. The ring’s ancient spell turns him into a huge shaggy dog, identical to the one owned by his pretty new neighbor, Franceska (Roberta Shore). Wilby’s father (Fred MacMurray) is allergic to dogs, so Wilby hides out in Franceska’s house, where he overhears Franceska’s father plotting to steal secret missile plans. Still a dog, Wilby has to figure out a way to foil the spies and save Franceska.

This low-key fantasy/comedy is a long-time family favorite, and children love to see the dog driving the car and wearing pajamas.

The 1976 sequel, The Shaggy D.A. was followed by more two made-for-television sequels starring Harry Anderson.

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Comedy Family Issues Fantasy

The Shaggy Dog

Posted on March 8, 2006 at 12:14 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild rude humor.
Profanity: Some crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Joke about drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence, dog bite, no one seriously hurt
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000FKP3XY

An uninspired all-the-best-parts-are-in-the-trailer remake, this is a showcase for two things: Tim Allen’s mugging and some computer wizard-style special effects. The limited entertainment value of both items and a solid supporting cast are not quite enough to make up for a predictable script and faux aw-moment theme.


Allen plays Dave, an assistant District Attorney in the middle of a big trial that is his chance to show he can handle the top job. A high school teacher is charged with starting a fire in a lab that tests animals for medical research, and Dave wants the jury to find him guilty.


He is so preoccupied with the trial that he doesn’t notice the problems at home. His son is failing math. His daughter is one of the protesters at the lab and she thinks her teacher is a hero and her father is the bad guy. And his wife (“Sex in the City’s” Kristen Davis) feels neglected and abandoned.


It turns out something fishy, or, I should say doggy is going on at the lab. Dr. Kozak (Robert Downey, Jr.) has captured a mysterious sheepdog that is still healthy and youthful although it is 300 years old and is trying to find a way to transfer his genetic makeup to humans. When Dave is bitten by the dog, he starts scratching behind his ear, lapping up his food, and growling at his opposing counsel. Then he turns into a dog.


This sets the stage for two developments: mildly amusing mix-ups as Dave-the-dog tries to navigate the human world, transforming back and forth from mannish-dog to doggish-man and lessons learned as Dave discovers how many things he wants to be able to say, now that he can’t do anything but bark. The lab experiments include CGI genetic cross-breeds like a dog-frog combo that exemplify this movie’s own uneasy mixture of slapstick and sentiment.

It feels too long, even at 98 minutes, over-stuffed with an under-used supporting cast that includes Davis, Downey, Danny Glover, Jane Curtin, and Philp Baker Hall. Craig Kilborn, in a brief role, manages to wear out his welcome quickly and then hang around to wear it out again.

Whether it’s a fantasy-comedy or a fantasy-drama, whether a magical spell or some plot-driven subterfuge, transformation in a movie plays the same role as any other epic journey. It gives the character a chance to understand who and what he was and to learn what he can do better.


All of that happens here, as Dave learns that he wasn’t really paying attention to his family and how much he needed them. But the set-up is so indestructible and the dog is so irresistible that, buoyed by Allen’s willingness to do whatever it takes for a laugh provide some light-weight pleasure.


Parents should know that this movie has some crude language and humor for a PG, including bathroom jokes and and references to body cavity searches, getting “fixed,” and being “sold” in prison. At one point, the kids are concerned that their parents are splitting up. A strength of the movie is the positive portrayal of a friendship between people of different genders and races.


Families who see this movie should talk about what being a dog helped Dave to see differently. Why did he neglect his family? Would you like to live for 300 years? What would you do differently? Families who want to find out more about the issue of animal testing can find it here and here.


Families who enjoy this movie should see the original, with Fred MacMurray and the sequel with Dean Jones, The Shaggy D.A..

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Comedy Family Issues Fantasy Movies Remake

Ultraviolet

Posted on March 4, 2006 at 12:23 pm

C-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of violent action throughout, partial nudity and language.
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and graphic violence, many characters killed
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000FGGE68

This movie hopes that it can distract you from its failure of imagination with the following:

  • Throbbing techno club music-style soundtrack
  • Sleek, towering futuristic structures
  • The toned body of star Milla Jovovich, magnificently displayed in a variety of skin-tight, midriff-baring outfits. She can change the color of her catsuits and hair, too.
  • Lots and lots and lots of shooting, kicking, swordfights, and explosions


But all of that can’t hide:

  • Cardboard dialogue that compounds its failures with a lot of repetition for emphasis and faux-seriousness. “It’s just the wind. Just — the wind.”
  • An unintelligible story line
  • Dreary performances by everyone in the cast except for William Fichtner as a kind-hearted scientist
  • A boring bad guy. In fact, a couple of all but indistinguishable boring bad guys.
  • You know all those fight scenes? Not very exciting, at its best a poor imitation of better movies

Milla Jovovich (the Resident Evil) series plays Ultraviolet, who isn’t kidding when she introduces the story by saying “I was born into a world you may not understand.” It isn’t that it is so complicated; it’s just not interesting enough to pay attention to. She’s a mutant and a part of a rebel group fighting the tyranny of the humans. She infiltrates their compound to pick up what looks like a boogie board-shaped briefcase containing some highly destructive biological agent and is told it will self-destruct if she tries to open it.


So, she opens it. And inside is a child. When she gets back to the rebel stronghold, they decide to kill the child, whose blood contains some, I don’t know, bad stuff of some kind. But Ultraviolet, whose pregnancy was terminated 12 years earlier when she became infected with the mutating pathogen, finds her maternal instincts taking over and she and the boy, whose name is Six (Cameron Bright, continuing a string of awful movies after Godsend and Birth) are soon on the run.


Inevitably, we have the 2/3 of the way through moment of peace and safety that shows up in most action films for all the characters to catch their breath, bond, and show their softer sides. Meanwhile, the bad guys stride through spotless corriders in buildings where weirdly calm disembodied female voices say things like “Switching to emergency backup lighting system.”


If only I could have found the button for the emergency back-up better movie system.

Parents should know that the film has non-stop action violence with a lot of shooting, stabbing, and kicking. Many characters are killed and a child is in peril and apparently doomed. Characters use brief strong language and there is brief non-sexual nudity and some barfing.


Families who see this movie should talk about the risks of bio-terrorism. Why does Violet decide to protect Six?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Blade Runner and The Matrix and Jovovich’s The Fifth Element (all with some mature material).

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Action/Adventure Fantasy Movies Science-Fiction Thriller

Block Party

Posted on March 2, 2006 at 12:27 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language.
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: References to alcohol and drugs
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000FMH8RG

The regal Erykah Badu takes the stage, her slender form topped with an enormous puff of hair that hangs down over her face. But the stage is outdoors on a gusty, rainy day, and all of a sudden it is blown back and then off! She keeps singing.

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Comedy Documentary Movies Musical

Unknown White Male

Posted on March 1, 2006 at 12:29 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for drug references and brief strong language.
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Disturbing themes
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000GBEWIY

Confounded doctors admit that they’ve only seen it in movies and textbooks. But in this documentary a mystery, perhaps the ultimate mystery occurs.


A healthy and successful young man wakes up on a train to Coney Island to discover – nothing. He has no idea who he is and nothing to indicate his name or address. He has completely lost his “episodic memory,” all of the details of his own personal experience – relationships, education, work, his own subjective reactions to the world. He retains the basics of his “semantic memory,” enough to let him conclude that the place to go for help is a police station. But everything else is just…gone.


And so, he goes from discovering an almost endless nothing to discovering an infinite everything. Like a visitor from another planet, he is an adult man for whom everything he sees is brand new. His family and friends are reassuring but also confusing – is he still the man they say they cared about if he cannot remember any of the shared experiences they describe? The wonders the rest of us take a little bit for granted, from the ocean to chocolate mousse, come to him pure and undiluted.


After a few days of detective work, he learns his name: Doug Bruce. But after months of medical tests and trying to remember the people and places everyone tells him were once part of his life, he still does not know who Doug Bruce is. Or, he does know who Doug Bruce is. He just doesn’t know who he was.


This documentary takes us on the journey with Doug, the man who lost his memory. Director Rupert Murray was a close friend of Doug’s before he lost his memory. His movie is not just the story of Doug’s journey to finding himself but a meditation on the nature of identity, memory, and connection.


Parents should know that this movie has some strong language and disturbing themes.


Families who see this movie should talk about their most important memories and what they can do to preserve them.


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy some of the famous fictional depictions of memory loss, especially Random Harvest and I Love You Again. They may also enjoy my interview with the director.

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Biography Documentary Movies
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