It's been almost 50 years since Disney's original version of The Shaggy Dog (1958), starring Fred MacMurray, was released; long enough that even the parents of many of the kids who want to see the film will not have seen the original. Luckily, if they do remember the original, they will realize moments into the film that the only similarity between the two films is that the father hates dogs. In the original, the son transformed into a sheepdog; in the re-imagined version, the father (well-played by Tim Allen) transforms.
Tim Allen is Dave Douglas, a busy corporate lawyer aiming to be the next District Attourney. He's too busy for his kids -- political teen Carly (Zena Grey) and football-challenged Josh (Spencer Breslin) -- and even seems to have stopped listening to his wife Rebecca (Kirsten Davis), so it's only fair that a mystical dog should make him change his perspective. Allen is ideal for the role; his stand-up routine included comparisons between man and other animals; he's accomplished at both slapstick and drama; and after transforming into Santa, a sheepdog was not a big challenge. Rounding out the cast, Robert Downey Jr. puts in an over-the-top performance in the evil-scientist role and Craig Kilborn provides some punchlines as an annoying neighbour.
The comedy is classic Disney-family-style, with a few broad strokes of slapstick and some nods to other films thrown in (listen for Allen's Toy Story shoutout). The best shots in the film are those seen through Douglas' eyes as a dog and reminded me of some of the scenes from Cats and Dogs (2001). I walked into this movie with fairly low expectations but found myself laughing -- one ridiculous sequence in particular had me almost roaring -- and more or less enjoying this light little family film.
The soundtrack includes a half dozen songs about dogs; among them: Big Dog by Akon, the inevitable Who Let the Dogs Out by the Baha Men, Atomic Dog by George Clinton -- some of which didn't appear in the movie -- along with the original score by Alan Menken.
Buy The Shaggy Dog soundtrack on CD.
Buy The Shaggy Dog (1958) on DVD