Old Dogs: 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack
by Jef Burnham
Now available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
Film Monthly Home
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Old Dogs, as so many recent Disney releases, is being made available in multiple formats, and, again like so many of their releases, all these versions of the film are being offered in one, reasonably-priced 3-disc combination pack, including the Blu-ray version, DVD, and a digital copy. Considering the many ways in which the modern family unit can watch any given film, this 3-disc set provides for all eventualities, insuring that no one in the family will ever have to wait to watch Robin Williams and John Travolta float aimlessly through this average family comedy.
Let me say first that kids will like this movie. I even found myself laughing quite a lot, primarily at the supporting characters. There are some really terrific bits with Seth Green, Matt Dillon and Justin Long, all of whom consistently got laughs from my wife and me. But the supporting cast, though jam-packed with talented performers, is tragically underused. Take for instance Amy Sedaris, who appears on a balcony and was barely onscreen long enough for a friend to utter, “Hey, that’s Amy Sedaris,” before she disappeared entirely. Still, as much as I expected not to, I found myself laughing at Old Dogs. The scene in which Robin Williams’ character, Dan, has lost his depth perception and goes golfing, as well as the camping scenes and the zoo scenes (all of which were rightly featured heavily in the trailers), are particularly amusing. As in these scenes, the film is at its best when Williams and Travolta are caught up in slapstick with the supporting cast members providing colorful commentary.
Unfortunately, those scenes comprise maybe 30-40% of the picture, while the rest focuses on Dan’s attempts to win his family back (it’s more complicated than that, but it hardly matters). What’s so unfortunate is that the scenes where Dan is supposedly bonding with the children are unfunny and uninteresting. Moreover, I found them to be insulting to children, as the children in the film are given absolutely no genuine characterization. They’re stereotyped, but I don’t think that counts. The children need to be written as real people for a film like this to work, but the filmmakers decided to take a shortcut and stereotype them instead, with the boy loving food I guess and the girl constantly wanting to play princess tea party, that they might milk a few more precious, humorless moments out of Williams and Travolta. It saddens me that the children in a “family” film, one from Disney no less, are simply shuffled aside to make way for the big-name stars— what a culturally regressive message to send to children.
Still, there are enough hits to the groin and funny animals that kids will be drawn to Old Dogs, and enough to laughs to keep their parents from tearing their hair out as they might with other children’s entertainment.
Available on all releases of the film are Bloopers; 3 Deleted Scenes; a music video of Every Little Step,” performed by John Travolta and Ella Bleu Travolta; and Audio Commentary featuring Director Walt Becker, Producer Andrew Panay, and Writers David Diamond and David Weissman.
Additional special features only available on the 3-disc set include a featurette entitled “Young Dogs Learn New Tricks,” in which the films child stars interview Williams and Travolta, and a music video for Bryan Adams’ “You’ve Been a Friend to Me.”
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
Got a problem? E-mail us at email@example.com