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"The Shaggy Dog": Hot dog! Tim Allen's a hoot
Special to The Seattle Times
Long after the throwaway story line of Disney's latest remake of "The Shaggy Dog" is forgotten, I'm going to remember how much I laughed at Tim Allen's portrayal of a driven prosecutor, Dave Douglas, who psychologically becomes a canine before physically transforming into one.
It's not so much that Allen can mimic a dog as it is that he artfully translates a dog's cares and obsessions into bizarre human behavior. Rather than bark at a pooch marking territory on Dave's property, Allen stands on the edge of his character's yard, intimidating bystanders with a yapping chant: "MY lawn! MY lawn! MY lawn!"
Scolded by a trial judge (Jane Curtin), Dave lowers his head in submission and then rests his chin on the judge's desk. For the longest time, no one in the story quite knows what's up, and it's fun, sitting in the audience, to be in on the secret.
Nothing else in "The Shaggy Dog" matches these moments of high inspiration on Allen's part. The film's script, by at least five credited writers, is not much more than warmed-over themes from the "I could be a better dad if I were something other than dad" school of screenwriting ("Mrs. Doubtfire," "Jingle All the Way").
Assistant district attorney Douglas is neglecting his wife (Kristin Davis) and kids (Spencer Breslin, Zena Grey) while climbing a career ladder to the top job. Prosecuting a young fellow accused of attacking a research lab where experiments are performed on animals, Dave is bitten by a sheepdog that escapes the same lab.
Soon, Dave is intermittently becoming a dog, getting into scrapes but gaining insight into his family's thoughts and feelings in a way he never bothered with as a man. The story practically writes itself from that point, but the talent on display is considerable, including the performances of Robert Downey Jr., Philip Baker Hall and Danny Glover.
Director Brian Robbins keeps the special effects and animatronics to a minimum, relying more often than not on real (albeit trained) dogs. That extra bit of authenticity is refreshing.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company