Nathan Lane as Spot Helperman/Scott Leadready II
Kelsey Grammer as Evil Krank
Shaun Flemming as Leonard Helperman
Debra Jo Rupp as Mrs. Helperman
Jerry Stiller as Pretty Boy
David Ogden Stiers as Mr. Jolly
Rob Paulsen as Ian Wazselewski
Paul Reubens as Alligator Boy
Megan Mullally as Mosquito Girl
Estelle Harris as Pet Sitter
Jay Thomas as Barry Anger
Wallace Shawn as Principal Strickler
Teacher’s Pet is fun for kids and fans of the TV series, but not even the great voice cast can raise it from being simply mediocre.
This movie is a spin-off from the animated TV series Teacher’s Pet.
Spot is a dog owned by Leonard Helperman. Though they get along great together, Spot still wishes that he were a human boy. He’s so desperate to be human that he dresses up as “Scott Leadready II” and attends elementary school with his master. In fact, he’s the star pupil at the school in a class taught by Leonard’s mother.
When Spot sees an evil genius on TV named Evil Krank, he thinks he may have finally found a way to be turned into a human boy. Krank claims to have created a process to transform animals into people. When Leonard and his mother drive to Florida for summer vacation, Spot sneaks along as Scott Leadready so that he can meet up with Krank.
When the mad scientist finally transforms Spot into a human, it’s not quite what he expects. He quickly discovers that being a human is not everything he hoped it would be. But will he be able to be turned into a dog again before it’s too late?
Teacher’s Pet is rated PG for some mildly crude humor.
I must start out by saying that I only have a passing familiarity with Teacher’s Pet. I’ve seen it on TV a couple of times when my kids were watching it, but I have never followed the series. The most notable thing I remember about it was the voice talent. That, too, is the most notable thing about the movie.
The cast is led by Nathan Lane of Lion King fame. He’s the voice of Spot, the dog who wishes to be a boy. The similarity with Pinocchio is obvious and the movie makes no effort to hide it. In fact, they celebrate it. The movie starts out with a parody of Pinocchio while “When You Wish Upon A Star” plays. Lane plays the dog that wants to be a boy with a lot of enthusiasm and humor. He’s not nearly as funny as his Timon character, but he manages to keep things lively. His Broadway background helps him to belt out the musical numbers as well.
Lane is supported by Jerry Stiller as Pretty Boy. You’ll remember Stiller as George’s father from Seinfeld. Incidentally, the pet sitter in this film is played by Estelle Harris, George’s mother from Seinfeld. David Ogden Stiers from M*A*S*H plays the cat Mr. Jolly while Debra Jo Rupp from That 70′s Show plays Mrs. Helperman. Rounding out that cast is a parade of TV stars: They include Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) as Evil Krank, Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) as Alligator Boy, Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) as Mosquito Girl, Jay Thomas (Cheers, Murphy Brown) as Barry Anger, Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride) as Principal Strickler, and prolific voice actor Rob Paulsen as Ian Wazselewski. It’s a lot of fun to try and identify their voices as their characters come on the screen.
Though I wasn’t familiar with the TV show, all of the kids around me were big fans. They cheered as their favorite characters came on screen and they sang with the theme song at the end. Based on their reactions, I think any fan of the TV series will thoroughly enjoy this movie. In fact, my child who doesn’t even watch the show wants to see it a second time.
What Didn’t Work:
As great as the cast is, the movie is just mediocre. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. The plot is very predictable and the songs, while not bad, aren’t memorable. I can’t even remember the tune to a single one though I do remember one song was about the 50 states.
The animation is also the quality of the TV show. The characters are very stylized and not terribly appealing. In fact, they’re all pretty ugly. The animation looks like it was done cheaply and quickly and it doesn’t break new ground on any front. That would be fine if the story was engaging, but it isn’t (for adults, at least).
Teacher’s Pet also goes to great lengths to remind you that it’s made by Disney. Besides the opening sequence reusing music from Pinocchio, Mickey Mouse makes several cameos that kids will definitely notice. It would have been fine once, but it happens repeatedly. The movie even ends with a gigantic Disney logo emblazoned across the screen. I know this movie needs all the help it can get, but this was a little much.
The Bottom Line:
Teacher’s Pet is for fans of the TV series and children. Nobody else is going to get much out of it. Adults that are dragged into it won’t be tortured by watching it, but it probably won’t be a favorite either.