Review of Old Dogs

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Two friends and business partners find their lives turned upside down when strange circumstances lead to them being placed in the care of 7-year-old twins. Starring John Travolta, Robin Williams, Kelly Preston and Seth Green.
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Movie Review: "Old Dogs"

-- Rating: PG (some mild rude humor)
Length: 88 minutes
Release date: Nov. 25, 2009
Directed by: Walt Becker
Genre: Comedy and Family

As far as ensemble comedies go, "Old Dogs" is fun and interesting to watch. In the movie, Charlie Reed (John Travolta) and Dan Rayburn (Robin Williams) are two best friends who also co-own a sports marketing firm. Approximately seven years previously, Rayburn had divorced his wife and married Vicki (Kelly Preston). The marriage only lasted a short while though. Fast-forward seven years and Vicki is back to inform Rayburn that she was pregnant with twins Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta) and Zach (Conner Rayburn) when they divorced.

Vicki, an environmental activist facing jail time for her activities, is looking to leave the twins with her former husband. Rayburn agrees on condition that his friend helps him because neither of them has ever taken care of kids. Vicki's arrival has also coincided with the finalization of an important marketing deal that needs delicate handling.

The problem is compounded by the fact that Rayburn's condo has a no kid's policy, so he decides to board with Reed. The two have good intentions when taking care of the kids, but they can't get it right most of the time.

Reed is desperate to help his friend with the kids, but since he has no clue how to, he decides to outsource. He hires his friend Jimmy Lunchbox (Bernie Mac), a world famous children's entertainer. When Vicki comes back from jail, Rayburn and Reed seem to have developed a wonderful relationship with the kids.

Unfortunately, they have to rush off to Tokyo after their junior associate goes missing in the Asian city. While in Tokyo, Rayburn abandons his colleagues and flies back home after realizing that his number one desire in the world is to be a good father to his kids.

The movie is full of sight gags as well as physical humor, just like most movies that depict older men's attempts at raising kids. One of the most memorable comedic scenes is when Lunchbox plays a genius puppeteer.

While "Old Dogs" is primarily a comedy, there are nonetheless a few themes that will resonate with most families. For example, it has a recurring theme about the importance in life of family and relationships. The demands of family and business seem to pull the two friends in different directions, and it is interesting to watch how they deal with these obligations.

Another telling point is that the scriptwriter decided to deal with the fact that the two actors playing the part of the two friends are not exactly young. Both of these men are in their 50s, and the movie frequently points to the vast difference in age between them and the twins. This age difference is used in multiple funny bits of the movie as well as a foundation for age-based jokes that many people will find extremely funny.

Why is it that most people who watch "Old Dogs," a movie that has been described as proudly lazy, hoot with laughter throughout the movie? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the film is filled with lots of gags. The scene where Reed and Rayburn get their prescription drugs mixed up by the kids is particularly hilarious. On a golf trip, after taking the wrong medicines, Reed cannot help grinning like the Joker while Rayburn seems to have a penchant for hitting others in the crotch.

There is a lot of talent in the movie, with some big names as part of the cast. In fact, some of them only manage to get a few lines here and there. Perhaps this is the major reason why the kids are kept out of action for long stretches. One could say that the intention of the film is to be wholly about relationships. As far as the comedy goes, it seems as if the producers were convinced that broad and overt humor would work best, and this is what they concentrate on.

The director of this movie, Walt Becker, also directed "Wild Hogs." The "Wild Hogs" comedy was very successful at the box office, holding the number one position in box office sales in its opening weekend. Perhaps this is what gave Becker the courage to make this ensemble comedy. Irrespective of where he got his inspiration, he certainly seems to have put a lot of his time and talent into directing this film.

Rating: 3 out of 5