The animated television series “Teacher’s Pet” makes a fast, fresh, tuneful, and funny feature debut that will entertain its fans and amuse their families.
Spot (voice of Nathan Lane) is a highly intelligent and articulate dog who dreams of becoming a boy. But then he wakes up. All he can do is pretend to be a boy, disguising himself as “Scott” and going to school with Leonard, the boy he lives with.
Leonard and his mother take off for Florida so she can participate in a teacher of the year competition, and Spot follows them after he sees a television interview with Dr. Krank (voice of Kelsey Grammar), who says he can change animals into humans. So far, his experiments on swamp creatures have produced some bizarre mutants, including something that looks like an alligator crossed with a kangaroo. But Spot helps Krank make some adjustments and gets turned into a human. Unfortunately, since they forgot to figure in the effect of dog years, Spot becomes not a boy but a middle-aged man “with hairy knuckles and lower back pain.” After many complications and adventures, a lot of sly humor, and several deliciously witty songs, everything is happily resolved.
Kids will enjoy the wild characters, silly plot turns, bright colors, and vivid images. The animation style is distinctive and unusual. While it is apparently simple, even childlike, with basic shapes and bold colors, it is actually quite sophisticated, designed by award-winning artist Gary Baseman, whose illustrations have appeared in many magazines and whose serious work is in the collection of major museums.
Older kids and parents will appreciate the wisecracks and the self-aware pop culture references from the Jetsons to Disney movies (including Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, and Sleeping Beauty).
And everyone will enjoy the music. While most movies directed at the youngest children have almost interchangeable soundtracks filled with watered-down rock and hip-hop or syrupy jingles, “Teacher’s Pet” has first-rate Broadway quality songs, beautifully sung by Tony-winner Lane and an able supporting cast of voice talents. Witty (and vocabulary-building) lyrics rhyme “defiance” with “science,” “appliance,” and “giants” and “foe” with “status quo.” One song hilariously lists all of the states and another reminds us that even the small among us can be mighty.
Parents should know that there is a little bit of potty humor and some comic peril and violence. One of the characters has an eye that keeps popping out. Some children may be concerned because Leonard does not have a father and his mother shows some romantic interest in Scott.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we can help each other even when we have different dreams.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the television series, still available in reruns. They might like to take a look at some modern artists whose work may have inspired the style of this cartoon, like Wayne Thiebaud. And they will enjoy the popular game Cranium, also featuring Baseman’s design work. Families who listen to the “Teacher’s Pet” song at the end of the movie might enjoy hearing it sung by Doris Day in a romantic comedy of that name co-starring Clark Gable or Parker Posey singing it at an audition in the deliciously looney Waiting for Guffman (for mature audiences).