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The Shaggy Dog
cast: Tim Allen, Kirstin Davis, Danny Glover, Zena Grey, and Robert Downey Jr

director: Brian Robbins

99 minutes (PG) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.40:1
Buena Vista NTSC DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Noell Wolfgram Evans
Say what you want about Tim Allen the man, or Tim Allen the comedian, but Tim Allen the performer is solidly, confident in whom he is - the Dean Jones of the 21st century. Allen is an actor who has a limited range but who is more than happy to live and work within that. Sure, sometimes he steps out of the circle for a bit (Big Trouble comes to mind) but it's never very far. The latest film Allen set in his wheelhouse was the 2006 adaptation of The Shaggy Dog.

The Shaggy Dog is the story of a lawyer (Allen) who falls under a curse that turns him (usually at the most inopportune times) into a giant, well, shaggy sheepdog. The movie's plot is pretty boilerplate after that - he must break the curse, and re-connect with his family, all while stopping criminals and generally while under the guise of a dog. This version of The Shaggy Dog is a remake of sorts. The original was released in 1959 and featured Tommy Kirk in the title role, while the 1976 incarnation The Shaggy D.A. starred Dean Jones (in his Disney heyday). There was also The Return Of The Shaggy Dog in 1987, and a forgettable 1994 version.

What made those earlier incarnations work, and why they still hold up (except for the 1994 film), is the simplicity of their effects - the cursed turns into a dog through some obvious costume hair and, from that point, a real dog takes over (or a man in a very bad dog costume). Everyone involved knows it's a set up; no one tries to make it more than it should be, instead having fun within this framework. The Allen version though tries just a little too hard to push things into some type of 'believable' disbelief. And that's where the film falls short. It's been stated before, but it's true... just because you can add in some computer effects, doesn't mean you should.

The enhancements made here don't really add anything to the story or the charm, they in fact detract from the campiness that a story like this needs to work. And the effects and the effort behind them almost push the movie from a Saturday afternoon at the movies feeling to a cheesy made for cable movie vibe. What keeps it on the enjoyable side is the work of Allen. He gives the film his all and puts in a physicality he's never shown before. The results are energetic; it's good to see a performer feel so comfortable doing what they do.

The DVD features bloopers, bonus scenes, and a music video set that has to be missed. All in all it's a pretty mediocre package but in a way the studio should be commended for not trying to build the DVD up for more than it is. Hopefully they'll remember that next time they make a movie like this too - leave out the fancy effects and let the low-keyness of the story carry it. After all, it's worked before. The Shaggy Dog is a solid production. It's a movie though that could be (and in fact has been) better.
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