‘Old Dogs’ inoffensive but bland

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Tuesday, November 24, 2009 6:17pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

This movie covers the bases: Not only does “Old Dogs” bring in AARP-eligible John Travolta and Robin Williams to play its title roles, it also includes an actual canine of elderly years.

Nothing gets taken for granted in “Old Dogs,” which knows very well that a PG-rated family comedy needs a lot of corn and slapstick to work. So if you think putting the protagonists in a food fight with a gorilla is somehow “too much,” you might want to pick a different movie.

Travolta and Williams are lifelong best buds who run a successful sports-marketing company. Whatever that means, they have been very good at it, and are about to enter into a big deal with a Japanese corporation.

Complication: twin 7-year-old kids, born to a woman (Kelly Preston) that Williams had an impulsive one-night fling with years earlier. He never knew about his accidental progeny, but now he’s got to take care of them for two weeks.

It’s not important to explain why he must do this, except to say that screenwriters have their reasons. Just as they have reasons for including Travolta in the parenting duties.

These things have to happen, because otherwise there would be no movie, and if there were no movie, Disney would not have a picture for Thanksgiving weekend. So just roll with it, all right?

Or don’t. I didn’t buy what this movie was peddling, but “Old Dogs” is so blandly inoffensive, it might serve as a useful baby-sitter, a weekend time-killer for kids.

Somebody involved, maybe “Wild Hogs” director Walt Becker, gathered a few hip people to play supporting parts: Matt Dillon and Justin Long pop up for an ill-advised scouting weekend, Seth Green plays a gung-ho exec at the sports marketing firm, and Bernie Mac (in the last role filmed before his death last year) plays — actually I’m not sure what he plays, but imagine Little Richard as a robot designer.

The film is something of a Travolta family show, as the actor is married to Kelly Preston, and their daughter Ella Bleu plays one of the twins.

“Old Dogs” is best at the broad physical stuff, like when Travolta and Williams mix up their medications, or the aforementioned bout in the Great Ape exhibit at the zoo. Yes, that’s right — I am pointing out a food fight with a gorilla as a movie high point. Plan accordingly.

“Old Dogs” * 1/2

John Travolta and Robin Williams are lifelong pals baby-sitting 7-year-old twins in this family-friendly Disney comedy, a bland affair with very broad helpings of corn and slapstick. A few interesting people in supporting roles don’t help the tepid proceedings catch fire.

Rated: PG for subject matter

Showing: Alderwood, Edmonds, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Olympic, Stanwood, Thornton Place, Woodinville

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