Old Dogs (US - BD RA)
Gabe would rather see a puppy put to sleep than watch this movie again...
Charlie Reed (John Travolta) and Dan Rayburn (Robin Williams) are long time best friends, and co-owners of a successful sports marketing firm. When Dan’s wife leaves him Charlie takes him on a whirlwind tropical vacation, where he meets Vicki Greer (Kelly Preston). Dan and Vicki marry in a drunken stupor, and annul the marriage the next day. Seven years later Vicki comes back into Dan’s life, and announces two things – she’s about to do a stint in prison, and, more importantly, she’s the mother of twins…and Dan is the father. When her first choice for babysitter is injured Dan steps up to watch the kids, and Charlie steps up to help. Unfortunately, Dan and Charlie are also trying to get through the final stages of a big merger with a Japanese company, and the merger, like the children, requires a lot of attention.
There are some movies that come to my house that remind me why most people lose interest in this whole non-paying DVD review thing. Some movies are so far out of a critic’s comfort zone the thought of wasting two hours of their life watching them tortures them for weeks. I put Old Dogs off for too long, and it was time to take my medicine. This is why horror movies get such negative reviews – the bulk of big name critics don’t like the genre, and go into the film ready to be tortured. This kind of ‘wacky’ family comedy is my brand of horror film. I really wish I could be a good enough critic to watch this stuff objectively, but I’m not. I wish more that the film itself stood above my expectations and made me eat my words. It does not. It bleeds light hearted nostalgia for the parents, and low-brow hijinx for the kids through every frame. But my opinion is not to be trusted here. I don’t care about midlife crises, I don’t have any children of my own, and I think scripts based on a series of goofy comedy set pieces are a bad idea. From my untrustworthy point of view this is a bad movie made by people that are smarter than this but just don’t care. Someone wrote this script in their sleep, and the actors were happy to pick up a paycheck they didn’t have to work for.
Technically speaking director Walt Becker does his part to squeeze out something less than terrible. The film is well edited, and moves at a break neck pace. 88 minutes of predictable placation is certainly better than 120, and the first ten minutes are almost brilliantly cut. Almost. I’ve never seen any of Becker’s other films (I have no reason to want to, frankly), but based on what I see here he’s kind of a frustrated, pale facsimile of Edgar Wright. The ridiculous pace does rob the film of any natural character development, which would just get in the way of the gas and urine jokes, and stupid physical gags, but I pretty much hated all the characters anyway, so I was happy not spending time with them. The film’s only decent element, from my untrustworthy point of view, is the presence of Seth Green, who has certainly been better, but pulls out a decent performance (even if it only adds up to about five minutes of screen time).
We can’t depend on Disney studios always delivering the greatest of products, but their Blu-ray discs are dependably good looking. Old Dogs is one of those modern, light hearted comedies that shoots everything through a super bright, diffused white light. Old Dogs is a little less candy-coated, and a little more high contrast than stuff like Bedtime Stories, but it’s in the same ballpark. The last time I saw New York look this bright, clean and colourful I was watching Enchanted. There is some basic grain over the print, but things are practically impeccable overall, including sharper than hell, deep set details, nicely contrasting colours (both Travolta and Williams have a piercing blue eyes), and super deep, rich blacks. The darkest scenes are a bit sludgy, but overall the details actually rival some of the better discs I’ve seen. The edging highlights are sort of a defining visual element, and they are cleanly white without any noticeable edge-enhancement. Colours are bright without blocking, even the full red of William’s king costume during his tea party, and the right elements, like skin tones and foliage, are very natural.
As per the Disney Blu-ray norm Old Dogs comes fitted with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The sound effects here are pretty over-the top, somewhere between an animated movie and Requiem for a Dream. The aural contrast is huge at times. Soft dialogue heavy scenes are often spiked by big sounds like punches to the face and cracks of backs. The ultimate Frisbee match is particularly impressive in terms of movement, and the follow up skeet shooting scene rocks the LFE. The POV shots used when Williams suffers through depth perception problems are another highlight, aurally speaking. The sheer quantity of music on the track is maddening at times, and sounds like a mix of a baby boomer’s playlist, and the soundtrack of every dopey family comedy you’ve ever seen. The cartoony nature unfortunately does not mean the music works its way into the rear channels too often, though this is likely the best I’ve heard the Chariots of Fire theme.
The extras begin with a commentary track, featuring director Walt Becker, producer Andrew Panay, and writers David Diamond and David Weissman. The track begins with giggles, which reappear regularly enough (the Davids may be stoned), but the general information side of the track is actually decent, considering I learned a few things about the production. The bulk of the track is frustrating, however, as it mostly pertains to aurally patting the cast and crew on the back while laughing at the participant’s own jokes. I’m wondering who besides disc reviewers are going to listen to this track. This film is aimed at kids and grown-ups that don’t really care about the art of filmmaking. Curious. The rest of the extras are of the brief and fluffy variety, beginning with ‘Young Dogs Learn Old Tricks’ (2:50, HD), which sees Williams and Travolta being interviewed by their kid co-stars. There are three brief deleted scenes, including a slightly different ending (3:30, HD), followed by a series of bloopers (2:30, HD). Things are wrapped up with two music videos (‘You’ve Been a Friend to Me’ and ‘Every Little Step’) and a series of Disney trailers.
Old Dogs was actually worse than I was expecting, but it does zip right by. I hope that Travolta and Williams were paid enough to seek out more interesting work for the next several years. I’ve heard good things about World’s Greatest Dad. I also hope Travolta’s daughter had a blast making her dad look like an ass. If this kind of feel good, fart joke fluff is something you like, and I promise I’m not judging, you could do a lot worse than this Blu-ray release, at least so far as the 1080p transfer and DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is concerned. The extras are practically non-existent, but there are DVD and Digital Copy versions included for the kids.
Reviewer Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray's image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 9th March 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director, Producer, and Writers' Commentary, Young Dogs Learn Old Tricks, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Trailers, Digital Copy, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Walt Becker
Cast: Robin Williams, John Travolta, Seth Green, Kelly Preston, Lori Loughlin
Length: 88 minutes
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