What were they thinking? This movie is rated-PG and heavily marketed to kids. But in the first ten minutes, the title character, a dog trained by the FBI to catch criminals, bites off a bad guy’s testicle. We then see the man in the hospital as the doctor explains that it was a good thing that he only had to replace one, um, body part with a metal sphere, because if he had to replace both, they would clang when he walked. Darned if he isn’t clanging and speaking in falsetto by the end of the movie. This is family entertainment?
The movie also features an extended sequence featuring the main character sliding around in dog poop and losing his boxers. Are you laughing yet?
David Arquette plays Gordon, a mailman who has an entire arsenal to help him get through a route that includes a number of houses with “beware of dog” signs. He lives like a happy — if hapless – slob with his roommate Benny (Anthony Anderson). But he longs for his pretty neighbor Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), a single mom. When her sitter is late, he agrees to watch her son James (Angus T. Jones) for a few minutes so she can make her plane. But the few minutes turn into days as the sitter becomes ill and the mother can’t get home. Gordon introduces James to the pleasures of junk food and hair mousse. Then Agent 11, the FBI’s top dog, runs into Gordon’s mail truck to escape mob assassins. James – now called Jimmy — dubs him “Spot” and falls in love.
At first, Gordon and Jimmy think there is something wrong with Spot because he will not play. When Spot retrieves a woman’s purse from a mugger, they misunderstand and think he attacked the man. They refer to Spot as “broke” and “retarded.” Then, like James, Agent 11 gets a new life with his new name, one in which fun is a top priority.
The mob killers are still chasing Spot, and the FBI is chasing them. Stephanie is trying to get back to rescue James. Everyone arrives at once, and it is time for Agent 11 to go back to work. Or is it?
We could use some family movies along the lines of Disney’s “Ugly Dachshund” and “That Darn Cat” in the 1960’s – romance, mild adventure, pets, not overly complex or subtle but fun for everyone. But this movie can’t even manage the dumb comedy level, even by the low standards of the genre. It does not require suspension of disbelief – it requires abandonment of basic principles of logic, consistency, and cause and effect. For example, it is summer time. Stephanie is on a business trip wearing a light summer suit (with a miniskirt, of course, but her legs are one of the movie’s strongest assets, so I won’t complain). So of course the only reason they can come up with to prevent her from making it home is that the planes are cancelled due to snow?
It is too dumb for anyone over 8 and too vulgar for anyone under 12. Come to think of it, it is too dumb and too vulgar for anyone of any age. They should change the name to “Don’t See Spot Run.”
Parents should know that the movie has some mild language as well as offensive terms like “retarded,” the testicle and dog poop “humor” mentioned above, and scenes of mild comic violence (lots of property destruction, no one hurt). A man who inhales helium speaks in a squeaky voice. Some families may be concerned about Benny telling Gordon that he should not get involved with a woman who has a child. And some will object to the anti-intellectualism of the movie, which seems to promote an irresponsible all play and no work point of view.
On the positive side, the interracial friendship between Gordon and Benny is very nice. They tease each other, but they count on each other, and Benny proudly tells a group of rival break-dancers that Gordon is his best friend. Gordon and Jimmy talk about how to cope with not having one or both parents. And the end of the movie, in which Gordon makes his commitment to Jimmy clear, is also well done. This, however, is not enough to make the movie worthwhile.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Agent Murdoch was so attached to the dog and what he thought about when Jimmy asked if he could keep him. Why did Gordon live the way he did? How will he be different now?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Beethoven.”