Old Dogs Review

For a movie as painfully unfunny as Old Dogs, it sure does want to move quickly to the next bomb. It doesn’t even deliver a punch line before it seems satisfied with dropping all of the build-up.

Robin Williams plays Dan, taking his children to a camp, where he inadvertently shoots the head off a statue. That statue is of Barry’s (Matt Dillion) father. The gag, as expected, would be for Barry to launch or lose control, trying to tackle Dan in some humorous way, or maybe toss a few unfriendly words in his direction. Tackling would work since the audience was subjected to a miserable full-contact Frisbee game, but no, the scene just randomly ends and we’re back at home.

If Old Dogs had committed that movie sin once, it would be easy to gloss over. However, it does it again during a golf game, where Seth Green takes a shot from a driver straight into his groin. It repeats the same gag again with a Japanese business partner, and apparently that is the punch line.

Maybe writers David Diamond and David Weismann realized what they were doing, and chose to save the audience a bit of time. That theory falls flat when we are introduced to a “human puppet,” wherein Charlie (John Travolta) puts on some kind of motion capture suit to (get this) control Dan because Dan doesn’t understand how to play tea with his daughter. It is hard to fathom what is worse: that this is the final time Bernie Mac will ever appear on screen or that the producers, director, and studio thought this was a great idea.

After a few scenes where Dan begins to realize he is connecting to his children, you get the false impression that maybe Old Dogs is going to go somewhere, or (gasp!) have a purpose. Nope. It is all an excuse to put Dan in a jetpack, so he can fly over his daughter’s birthday party inside the confines of a closed zoo. This is the type of American comedy writing you simply can’t make up.

Old Dogs is at least short, barely breaking the 88-minute mark. That has to count for something though, right?

Movie ★☆☆☆☆ 

Immediately striking for Disney’s Blu-ray transfer of Old Dogs is the bold, slightly hot contrast. Deep, rich, inky blacks counter those, and generally remain firm. Flesh tones are slightly orange, giving the movie a small burst of unnatural color amidst well saturated and bright primaries. Sharpness provides some truly remarkable facial close-ups, as clear as one could probably imagine. The conversation between Dan and his ex Vicki on the street before she leaves is jaw-dropping in terms of its texture.

A light grain structure will remain unseen by many. It certainly never bothers the AVC encode. A marginal level of ringing is noticeable around high contrast edges, not enough to distract many. Environments are the lacking aspect of this transfer, typically appearing soft and poorly delineated. There are moments, including the grass during the camping trip and a few long shots of various cities, but these are the exception.

Darker scenes try to hold onto some level of texture, such as when the kids are being put to bed. They only partially succeed, although a murky quality is not an issue with the firm black levels. Regardless, the highlights are the liveliness of the textures, including the campground uniforms, dog fur, gorilla fur, suits, and again, those wonderful facial close-ups (including some in the mid-range that impress as well).

Video ★★★★☆ 

For such a boring comedy, Old Dogs has its moments of audio punch, even if they are generally brief. Seth Green inside a Karaoke bar, a live puppet show, and any moment where the soundtrack is allowed to breathe deliver a crisp consistency. Everything sounds full, with surround activity from clapping crowds or musical bleed.

Some minor ambiance is heard in the forest, a few birds chirping delivering an effective level of immersion. The tackle Frisbee game is quite impressive, delivering the absurdly ridiculous hits right into the subwoofer with an aggressive thud. Old Dogs saves the best for last (only in terms of audio, as nothing in the movie can be considered “the best”), an assault by a gorilla in the zoo that is incredibly powerful. Each roar, step, or pound on the part of the animal is wonderful, and the surrounds take a shot too enveloping the sound field with those same effects on the high end.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

A commentary from director Walt Becker, producer Andrew Panay, and co-writers David Diamond and David Weissman fail to explain what they were thinking when making this one. A small, mostly flat blooper reel is over in two minutes, along with three deleted scenes (an alternate ending amongst the cuts) that run three and a half. A music video, trailers, and Disney’s generic BD-Live access is also contained on the disc.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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