‘Old Dogs’ Could Use Some New Tricks
Which is: not much.
Director Walt Becker's film goes for humor and heart, achieving neither.
That's largely due to the script, by David Diamond and David Weissman (sorry guys, I'm sure you'd rather have remained anonymous). It sputters from one lame scene to the next, sometimes bothering with a transition, sometimes not. Plot devices come and go, but most are weak enough -- an extra-dark spray-on tan? -- that it doesn't really matter.
Williams and Travolta are both good actors, capable of excellent work.
They're also capable of treacle. Guess which you get here?
Charlie (Travolta) and Dan (Williams) have been best friends for 30 years. They own a sports-marketing business, with the impulsive Charlie and the uptight Dan playing off each other to great success. ("Playing off" usually involves Charlie telling embarrassing stories about Dan to potential clients.)
On the cusp of landing their biggest account, one that will set them up for life, they get a surprise: Vicki (Kelly Preston, the real-life Mrs. Travolta), to whom Dan was once married to for a few hours after getting tanked the same day he got divorced, shows up.
Vicki has to spend two weeks in prison for prostitution and ... just kidding. This is a Disney movie. She was protesting the building of an environmentally suspect plant near a stream, and convicted of trespassing.
Through Dan's ineptitude, her babysitter lands in the hospital. If only someone could keep them. ...
While working through their biggest account, Dan and Charlie will also have to keep the kids Dan didn't know he had. And not just keep them. They have a list, of all the things they want out of a dad. Their plan is to mow through them in the next two weeks.
You know the drill from here. The kids screw up the business deal! Except they don't! Or something!
Seeing Williams play the button-down straight man might have been intriguing½lcub¾lsaquo½rcub¾-- 15 or 20 years ago. Now? He just seems sort of tired.
The checks still cash the same, though. What other reason is there for doing a movie like this (a question that extends to the supporting cast, which includes Matt Dillon, Justin Long and Seth Green)? Even Ann-Margret, the late Bernie Mac and the great Amy Sedaris show up, and are quickly dispensed with.
Watching the predictable, lazy "Old Dogs," you can't help but think about the great Michael Caine line, about why such a great actor would appear in "Jaws: The Revenge." He's never seen it, he explained, and he understands it's terrible. But the house it paid for was fabulous.
Let's hope Williams, Travolta and the rest got a fabulous payday for "Old Dogs." Because otherwise, you know, woof.
Rated PG for some mild rude humor.