Old Dogs


Robin Williams as Dan
John Travolta as Charlie
Kelly Preston as Vickie
Conner Rayburn as Zach
Ella Bleu Travolta as Emily
Lori Loughlin as Amanda
Seth Green as Ralph White
Matt Dillon as Yancy Devlin
Justin Long as Adam Devlin
Dax Shepard as Trent Rice
Sab Shimono as Yoshiro Nishamura
Bernie Mac as Jimmy Lunchbox

Directed by Walt Becker

I have to confess I’ve always been unclear as to the reasoning behind making children’s films about adults and their lives. There’s not going to be enough common ground of experience for it to make much sense to the children, and it will be too infantile for the adults. They’re supposed to be films for the entire family, but they’re being made by people who don’t seem to know what that means. Nevertheless, they keep getting made and it’s time for the latest one.

Dan (Robin Williams) and Charlie (John Travolta) are a pair of “Old Dogs,” best friends since college and through the building of their successful sports management company. Wealth, choice and profession have kept either one from really growing up–even with middle age, not just knocking on the door but coming inside and rifling through the fridge. On the eve of the biggest deal of their careers, adulthood is about to be painfully thrust on them in the form of the seven-year-old twins (Conner Rayburn and Ella Bleu Travolta) Dan never knew he had.

The newest comedy from Walt (“Van Wilder,” “Wild Hogs”) Becker, “Old Dogs” is about exactly as funny and obvious as you’d think, with the easy set up and pay-off of a well-worn, completely neutered sitcom. The filmmakers seem to think the best comedy is the kind that’s not even remotely attached to reality, which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t trying to make a film set in the modern world. The result are ‘jokes’ where the adult apartment complex, which Dan has moved into after his divorce, has child-specific alarms and spotlights to protect its isolated inhabitants.

Stuck with the kids and no place to go, the clan soon ends up on Charlie’s sofa who, like any good best friend, will do what he must to help Dan bond with his kids. The strength of Dan and Charlie’s relationship is one of “Old Dogs” few redeeming virtues, despite the fact that it mainly exists just to keep its two stars on screen together as Charlie could be removed from the film and it would be largely the same.

The rest of “Old Dogs” can be pretty easily cribbed together from other similar recent films like “The Game Plan” and its ilk. There will be destruction of Charlie’s bachelor pad, some sort of costumed play time as the adults learn how to get back to the kids level and some promises that will have to be broken and then made up for.

The sad part is there’s a decent film in there somewhere. The desire to stay young for as long as possible, particularly while simultaneously dealing with growing old, is potent soil for comedy but also requires care in its handling and there’s none of that to be found in “Old Dogs.”

There is, however, a fine supporting cast responsible for the few genuine laughs “Old Dogs” does muster, particularly Matt Dillon and Justin Long as a pair of over-enthusiastic camp counselors. They’re not around near long enough. No one really is, as “Old Dogs” sprints relentlessly from situation to situation regardless of whether it works or not.

The conservative and committee-prone style of filmmaking Hollywood offers can churn out some good stuff, but more often than not we get stuff like “Old Dogs” instead. Heartless, brainless and unable to do anything with what it does have to offer, it doesn’t know who it’s for or what it’s offering. It just needs to get made because people have to have something to do. Spare yourself and your kids.