Plot: A pharmaceutical company thinks it has unlocked the secret of immortality, a way to extend life and cure all ailments. The source of this great power that man has searched for centuries to find? The secret lies within a special breed of Tibetan sheep dogs. Grant and Strickland, the drug firm, believes the dogs can yield a serum that prevents the aging process. Of course, if this serum could be created and worked on humans, Dr. Kozak (Robert Downey, Jr.) would be rich beyond his wildest dreams, as would numerous others at the company. In order to get the serum however, experiments must be undertaken on the animals, experiments which carry some dangers to the subjects involved. But before the experiments can be completed, some animal activist teens steal the dog from the lab, with plans to never return it. One of the teens involved is the daughter of Dave Douglas (Tim Allen), who is about to learn all he ever wanted to know about a dog’s life and more. The dog bites Douglas and soon, he finds himself transformed into a pooch himself. Will he ever find out to how to reverse the bite’s side effects and in the process, can he learn some important life lessons?
Entertainment Value: This remake of The Shaggy Dog is silly and over the top, much like the original and while it has some laughs, the movie winds up as a middle of the road experience. That’s not an indictment however, as I think it falls in line with similar live action Disney movies, which is to say it provides some entertainment, but doesn’t leave much of an impression. The narrative is fine and keeps things light, though the pace is a little slow at times and that’s surprising, given that this is clearly aimed at younger audiences. I think it hits most of the marks the intended viewership looks for in this kind of harmless, fluff family entertainment and it is a fun watch for the most part, so it is hard to be tough on this one. I can of course think of much better family oriented movies, but this film knows what it is and sticks to that, which produces typical Disney, assembly line style entertainment. The overall movie is average, but some scenes stand out as better than that, with the outlandish courtroom finale as an example, so it does show signs of life at times. In the end, I think family audiences will appreciate this and to me, that is who The Shaggy Dog is designed to appeal to.
Tim Allen is a stalwart presence in Disney films from this period, both live action and even some of the animated features from the studio. I think he is a capable lead for this kind of material and he at least tries to make the script work, so he doesn’t just phone in his performance. He runs with the silliness and that helps as well, throwing himself into some of the more outlandish moments for extra laughs. A less enthusiastic effort would have meant less entertainment, so Allen steps up to do his best, even in the less effective sequences. Of course, some will knock his performance as over the top or ham fisted, but to me, that’s exactly how this kind of role works best. Allen has the stuffy businessman routine down pat and then descends into comic antics, which seems like just what the script asks of him. Robert Downey, Jr. is also in a prominent role here and plays a big part in the ridiculous courtroom finale, so he has some memorable moments in The Shaggy Dog that his fans should have fun with. The cast also includes Danny Glover, Jane Curtin, Kristin Davis, Annabelle Gurwitch, and Philip Baker Hall, so Disney put together an impressive supporting ensemble here.