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The children's movie is a difficult type of film to do right, as it seems more fail than succeed. While Hollywood offers countless movies aimed at kids each year, some of these children's movies aren't really for kids. Films such as The Animal and the newly released Bubble Boy are marketed towards young audiences but are they really appropriate for the kids they are targeting? In the case of the two films I mentioned, I don't think so. Some of the content of these films are rather adult and although the films aren't rated "R" they aren't for general audiences. Just because a film is rated PG or PG-13 doesn't automatically make it okay for young kids to view it. Another huge problem with these so-called Kid films or films aimed at a family audience is that the humor in the film is usually unbearable for anyone over the age of 10 or 12. The kid may enjoy the film but the parent who accompanies the kid may be in a great amount of pain watching some of these films. Every so often a film or two come along that are fun for the whole family and this summer has given audiences the CGI animated hit Shrek and The Princess Diaries which were enjoyable for people of all ages. Both of these films while aimed primarily at a younger audience, contained humor and situations that those over 12 could relate to and more importantly laugh at. I applaud Disney and Dreamworks for these two fine pieces of cinema. However on the other side of things there are movies that work for the kids and only the kids and now Warner Brothers brings See Spot Run to the home viewer on DVD.

See Spot Run
Movie
Gordon Smith (David Arquette) is in the wrong profession. He's a postman who doesn't particularly like dogs. As luck would have it, on his route there is an entire street where each of residents have a dog. Armed with various tools, he tries to make it down the street in one piece and boy does he come close. At the end of the street he meets up with fellow employee and best friend Benny (Anthony Anderson). In addition to his mail route there is one other thing that is important to Gordon and that is his neighbor Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). However Stephanie doesn't come without baggage as she's a single mom with one son James (Angus T. Jones) and she doesn't share the same feelings about Gordon. She views him as the typical unreliable single man. However when the baby sitter calls in sick she has no choice but to leave her son in Gordon's hands. Meanwhile elsewhere Mob boss Sonny Talia (Paul Sorvino) is trying to conduct an illegal import/export trade. The FBI is aware of this and has setup a sting and uses an expert dog by the name of Agent 11 to infiltrate the hideout. Nothing goes as planned as Sonny escapes but not before receiving a painful injury from the dog. Sonny is not happy about this and orders a hit to be placed on the dog. Before the dog can be transported to an FBI safe house it manages to escape and as luck would have it, jumps into Gord's mail truck during his route. James immediately falls in love with the dog and wants to keep him. The chase is on as both the dog's partner Agent Murdoch (Micheal Clarke Duncan) and Sonny's hitmen Arlis Santino (Soprano co-star Steve Schirripa) and Gino Valente (Joe Viterelli) go looking for the dog. In the meantime an emotional bond forms between the goofy Gordon and the sweet James. Will the dog be found in time or will the mob boss get his way.

See Spot Run is the type of film that kids will love and their parents will hate. The humor is pretty lowbrow and while it tries to appeal to people older than 10, it fails miserably. Now going into this film I wasn't expecting a high level of satire or gross out humor along the lines of American Pie 2 or Road Trip. I was expecting dumb jokes and stupid faces by David Arquette and if that's what you're looking for in a picture then this won't disappoint. I guess I consider myself a fan of all sorts of different comedies from the smart comedy to the lowest lowbrow comedy. So while I wasn't expecting this one to be a David Mamet film, I also wasn't expecting the jokes to be this lame. In his commentary track Director John Whitesell mentions that he was trying to make a picture that parents and kids could both enjoy. Well here's a note to you John, you didn't manage to do that here.

The cast in this film is actually pretty good once you look past the fact that you have David Arquette in the starring role. David who is good in small roles, does like his role in the Scream series - just can't carry an entire picture on his own. Sometimes David can't even carry a 30 second long commercial without annoying the heck of me. It seems that David has a multi-picture deal at Warner Brothers with his previous starring vehicle being the extremely moronic Ready to Rumble also coming from the folks over at Warner. For Warner's sake I hope their contractual obligation to David is nearly completed as these films haven't exactly rang up huge business at the box office. Leslie Bibb who is best known as Brooke McQueen on the now cancelled WB series Popular, is given a chance to break out from the glam role in the role of Stephanie - a successful single mother who is trying to juggle work and her kid without much luck.  Leslie must have really wanted to break free from the teenager type role as this role is as different as one can get. Micheal Clarke Duncan who was  excellent in The Green Mile and The Whole Nine Yards is given very little to do here as is comedian Anthony Anderson (Me Myself and Irene, Romeo Must Die) who is usually quite funny but just doesn't work well here at all. Originally Anderson's character was to have basically a one line role in the script but when Anderson was brought on board the role was expanded. A special mention should be given to Angus T. Jones who acomplished something only Haley Joel Osment has done before which is playing a strong kid character without annoying me.

Director John Whitesell makes his feature film debut here as a director after working on many sitcoms over the past few years, including failed series like It's Like You Know and the very funny Jay Moher project Action. While I can't totally fault him for this lame movie I have to think that maybe this project should never have been greenlighted. According to his commentary track on the disc this script was sitting in the vault at Warner for sometime before he got his hands on it. The premise sounds good initially but I think the casting of Dave Arquette was the biggest mistake that one could have made. Could a more experienced director made this movie work better? Perhaps but I think over all the script was just flawed. He tried to make a comedy that appealed to both kids and their parents but just couldn't hit the nail on the head. It's not as easy as one would think to accomplish this and hopefully John won't give up as with a better script I think this film could have worked.

See Spot Run is funny if your under the age of 10 or 12. Kids will like it for the stupid humor of David Arquette and the funny situations that he finds himself in. Parents will sit there constantly glancing at their watch hoping that the film will end soon. It's not that See Spot Run is a bad film it's just there are better stories involving dogs and children out there that the whole family can enjoy.  I can't recommend See Spot Run to anyone over 12 with a clear conscious.

See Spot Run
Video
Warner Brothers presents See Spot Run in a beautiful 1.85:1 transfer enhanced for 16x9 displays. As this is a recent studio release there should really have not been any questions about the quality of this transfer. Warner Brothers proves once again that even the smallest release is given a chance to shine on DVD. Colors are vibrant, detail is excellent and the film has a very sharp look to it. Cinematographer John S. Bartly's simple setups come across quite well. While the imagery of this film isn't of the epic variety it's simple style looks great here. Things aren't 100% though as some slight edge enhancement and the occasional speck of dust on the print appear to bring the transfer down a few points.

It should be noted that See Spot Run is a Warner Family Entertainment label title. As DVD fans know Warner has been advertising many of their future family titles as having only Full Frame transfers. Luckily this DVD features a widescreen transfer with no sign of a Full Frame version. Two upcoming titles that have been or will be released shortly are Cats and Dogs and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. As a fan of the directors intended vision of the film I can not support a studio that would release butchered versions of their films to the home consumer. Warner has claimed through their extensive market research that families prefer Full Frame over widescreen. While that may indeed be the case they are forgetting about the numerous DVD fans such as myself who got into the format in part due to the original aspect ratio (OAR). Sure you may be thinking that these are just family titles but it all has to start somewhere. After all sooner or later a movie that I really enjoy will be deemed a family title. If Full Frame has to be included I don't see why it's not possible to include both options on a disc as it's certainly been done before. However with the recent outcry from fans it seems Warner may be reconsidering this decision. I for one sure hope so.

Audio
Every once in a while I get the chance to view a disc that surprises me in some way. Sometimes it's the movie itself, other times it's a special feature and other times it's an audio track. In this case the audio track is a standout. If you asked me what I thought I was going to get from a kid oriented family film soundtrack I would have thought it would fall on the side of a fairly safe comedy mix. That clearly isn't the case here.

Warner Brothers provides See Spot Run with a pretty killer 5.1 audio track. Though this is not a big movie in scope it sure sounds like it on this mix. The film makes use of all the channels quite well and features some impressive use of the LFE. Dialogue is nicely presented and sounds natural with John Debney's musical score filling the room nicely. The annoying child friendly pop music soundtrack also sounds pretty good. Any soundtrack that uses the techno/dance version of the infamous Hamster dance song is bound to annoy me but at least the clarity was good. There are a few nifty split surround effects. While this won't go down as a reference soundtrack it was surprisingly good for a film of it's type.

See Spot Run
Extras
Released under the Warner Family Entertainment Label this disc features a few small extras but nothing that's anything to write home about.

In terms of quality I guess the best feature on this disc would be the director's commentary with John Whitesell. Admittedly I wasn't really looking forward to sitting through this movie again right away and would have rather moved on to something else. However because I like to give the most complete reviews possible and because the film was shot in my hometown of Vancouver, I decided to give it a listen. If it got too boring I could always turn it off. Director Whitesell discusses what it was like to shoot the film and work with so many canine co-stars. Discussions also include talk about the changes made from the original screenplay, casting, locations and general information regarding the movie making process. Although he is not always the most engaging speaker, John manages to fill up most of the running time with only a few minor pauses early on in the picture making this commentary not a total waste of listening time.

Spot's Silly Tricks is a collection of winners from a contest that was tied into the theatrical release of this picture. I'm not sure exactly what the objective of the contest was as it's not explained on the disc but this feature just serves as the basis a couple dogs doing  tricks. Certainly not something I'd watch again but then again I'm not a dog lover.

The disc also contains the music video for Vitamin C's As Long As Your Loving Me which can be heard over the closing credits as well as the usual cast and crew biographies and the theatrical trailer for See Spot Run

A moderately entertaining commentary track and a couple of very short video based features just don't really add up to much in today's supplement heavy world. While other studios fill even the smallest hits to the brim with special features Warner Brothers continues to hold back. Though Warner has included more here then they usually do it's still not enough to warrant a better rating in this department.

Overall
Despite it's excellent audio and video quality, and a decent commentary track See Spot Run still doesn't hold up as much of a film. If your under the age of 12 or a fan of anyone in the cast See Spot Run is worth a rental at the most. Still a hand should be given to Warner for releasing this family title in widescreen let's hope the trend continues onwards to bigger and better family titles from the studio.


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