Toon Talk: The Shaggy Dog
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by Kirby C. Holt
The Shaggy Dog
MPAA Rating: PG
Mutt Not for Me
Disney's the Daniels family can't catch a break. First, a magical ring turned teen-aged Wilby Daniels (Tommy Kirk) into a sheepdog chased by Russian spies in The Shaggy Dog (1959), one of the most unexpected and profitable hits in the Studios' history. Then Wilby returned in 1976's The Shaggy D.A., all grown up into Dean Jones (and married to Suzanne Pleshette!) but still plagued by that ring, and now chased by corrupt politicians. These two films (especially the first) are fun and charming in a retro way, but the law of diminishing returns kicked in with the subsequent made-for-television visits to the Daniels household with The Return of the Shaggy Dog in 1987 and a 1994 remake starring Ed Begley Jr. and Aladdin's Scott Weinger.
But these two forgotten throw-aways have nothing on the newest version of The Shaggy Dog, opening in theaters today. The Daniels must have insisted on the name change to Douglas to avoid any connection to this mirthless, idiotic and embarrassing retread.
More a remake of The Shaggy D.A., Tim Allen, Disney's go-to guy for preoccupied patriarchs (Home Improvement, The Santa Clause, Jungle 2 Jungle) stars as Dave Douglas, an ambitious assistant district attorney embroiled in a high profile case pitting a big bad pharmaceutical company against an idealistic animal rights activist. With the demands of his job and the pending retirement of his superior (Danny Glover, who really should have better things to do), Dave has a lot on his plate, least of which his family: his patient yet increasingly concerned wife Rebecca (Kristin Davis, stuck with one facial expression - perplexed puzzlement - throughout the whole movie), rebellious daughter Carly (Zena Grey, trying vainly for a Lindsay Lohan vibe with her red hair - even though both her movie parents are dark haired) and son Josh (Spencer Breslin, becoming a Disney mainstay after his turns in Disney's The Kid and The Santa Clause 2), who, instead of following in his pop's footsteps as a football hero, just wants to star in the school musical production of Grease (by the way: "You're the One That I Wantâ€? -- not in the stage version).