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Case Number 04409

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Good Boy

MGM // 2003 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // May 14th, 2004

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All Rise...

As if mud wasn't enough, Judge Bill Treadway had to step around voluminous doggie droppings to bring us this review.

The Charge

Rover is about to take over.

Opening Statement

Let's face it. Movies about dogs tend to be horrible. (Anyone who thinks otherwise should be forced to watch a marathon featuring Bingo, See Spot Run, and Scooby-Doo.) And 2003 saw the release of yet another dog comedy, Good Boy. Will it be the exception to the rule or does it belong in the cinematic doggie pound?

Facts of the Case

Owen Baker (Liam Aiken) is a young boy whose parents (Kevin Nealon and Molly Shannon) are forever refurbishing houses to sell later. While they finish their latest venture, he begs them to allow him to adopt a dog. He chooses Hubble (voice of Matthew Broderick), a terrier mix.

One day, Owen notices the strange hold Hubble has on the other neighborhood dogs. He discovers that Hubble is actually an alien sent from the planet Sirius 7 to lead a canine invasion of planet Earth!

What next? Primordial hamsters from the Milky Way?

The Evidence

I am convinced that one day there will be a great comedy featuring canines as the main protagonists. Unfortunately, Good Boy! is not that comedy. It is undemanding fluff that will keep the kids entertained but leave their parents staring at the clock waiting for it to end. But Good Boy! is far from the worst comedy ever made involving dogs. See Spot Run wins that honor. At least one good thing I can say about this film is that it is fairly innocuous and gentle.

The humor leaves a lot to be desired. There are some laughs in the film, particularly when Owen gains the ability to understand canine thoughts. If only director John Hoffman decided to take some chances with his screenplay. It is not enough that the dogs are aliens, but give them something clever to do besides making the occasional wisecrack and fart joke. Some satire on modern dog care would have been welcome. Just imagine a scene set at a dog show in which Hubble convinces the other dogs to revolt. Those are ideas that are just too daring for what Hoffman wanted to make. The result is a safe picture that doesn't make any gambles.

The acting is uneven. When you put Kevin Nealon and Molly Shannon in a picture, give them something funny to do. The roles are your standard parental clichés. I could imagine Nealon and Shannon improvising all sorts of hilarious material with the basic premise. But no, Hoffman is satisfied to simply stick to his bag of clichés, thank you.

Liam Aiken is bland as Owen, but then again, the script doesn't require him to be anything other than bland. Much better is the vocal cast. Matthew Broderick is just right as Hubble, lending enough neurotic charm to make it work. Donald Faison is hilarious as wild dog Wilson and proves he is the most underrated comic actor at work today. Delta Burke lampoons her image as the prissy Barbara Ann, while comedy legend Carl Reiner lends the picture some pizzazz as wise old Shep.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

MGM presents the film in full frame, which is unacceptable. The opening credits are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic, yet the rest of the film is in pan-and-scan. I hate it when major studios think that families want only full frame. (Well, ignorant ones do, but that's another review.) As I have said before, it is never too late to introduce the young ones to the concept of letterboxing. The transfer looks sharp, with strong colors and few blemishes. However, I can not give high marks here. It goes against my principles.

Audio is better. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is excellent, with imaginative use of sound effects and multi-channel sound.

Since this is an MGM Special Edition, there are more extras than the usual MGM disc. Why some executive thought Good Boy! deserved a Special Edition when there are more deserving titles out there is anyone's guess.

• We start off with a commentary track featuring writer/director John Hoffman and actors Aiken and Shannon. This is one boring track. We get some decent information, but it soon bogs down into a lifeless talk-fest and back-slapping competition.
• Several deleted and alternate scenes feature optional commentary by Hoffman. Some of these scenes are interesting, but you can easily see why they didn't make the final cut.
• "The Making of Good Boy! is your standard, half-hour making-of documentary that most discs feature these days. It's mostly self-congratulatory and not as informative as most would like.
• "Q&A with Hubble" is very cute and entertaining. Young children will love to hear Hubble's account of the production.
• The original theatrical trailer, presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, is also included. Why the trailer and credits are presented in widescreen but not the film is one of those questions even Nostradamus couldn't answer.
• Several interactive features for the kids include an interactive map, profiles of the canine characters, a featurette titled "Crafty Canines," and a photo gallery. If they loved the film, these are the perfect follow-up.

Closing Statement

$26.95 is too much to pay for a film that is nothing more than mediocre. If your children are itching to see this, rent it instead. On second thought, scratch that. Rent something that will stimulate your child's mind and emotions, such as Whale Rider or Chaplin's The Circus.

The Verdict

I'd like to give a detailed list of who's guilty and why, but the canines are messing up my beautiful courtroom floor! I'll just declare this case closed.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 75
Audio: 90
Extras: 65
Acting: 60
Story: 45
Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Cantonese
• French
• Mandarin
• Spanish
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Genres:
• All Ages
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Track
• Documentary
• Featurette
• Deleted/Alternate Scenes
• Q&A with Hubble
• Pooch Profiles
• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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