13 November 2009

"Old Dogs" has me barking mad

How does John Travolta keep getting work?
For the past week, I’ve been assaulted with previews of his latest movie, “Old Dogs,” which seems to be a variation of “Wild Hogs,” his 2007 comedic outing, only without motorcycles. Let’s hear the plot of this sure-fire Oscar winner: “Two friends and business partners find their lives turned upside down when strange circumstances lead to them being placed in the care of 7-year-old twins.” I can almost imagine the pitch at whatever board meeting green-lit this cinematic turd: “It’s Robin Williams! AND John Travolta! WITH TWINS!”
Everything about this movie, judging from the preview, smacks of bland inoffensiveness. Let’s face it: Robin Williams isn’t Robin Williams without being coked to the gills, and Travolta isn’t Travolta without disco music or witty Quentin Tarantino dialogue. These two have made so many insulting movies during the past decade (Travolta: “Swordfish,” “Wild Hogs,” “Battlefield Earth;” Williams: “Bicentennial Man,” “License to Wed,” “A.I.”) that they gone totally beyond the pale of what passes for acceptable Hollywood conduct. Have our standards fallen so low that these two has-beens can keep cranking out clunker after clunker and still find work?
Oh, I can hear the screams already. “Robin Williams is funny!” Yes, Robin Williams CAN be funny. I admit that. I loved “Death to Smootchy.” But he’s guilty of at least this much: it seems he will do any movie, no matter how terrible, for a paycheck. He’s become a comedic Robert DeNiro, turning in performance after performance of the same shtick. He’s almost become a parody of himself. Travolta is much the same. “Pulp Fiction” brought him back into the mainstream as a legitimate star, and ever since, he’s proven that the comeback he earned with that performance was a fluke. Come to think of it, these two belong together: Mork from Ork and Vinnie Barbarino, lighting up the silver screen. That’s right, folks – the 1970s never ended.
Watching the preview for “Old Dogs” is so painful that the only humorous item I find in it is that the movie itself will probably do OK in the box office, given that there is a relative scarcity of movies that both adults and kids can see and not be completely bored to death. If anything, it’s evidence that movies marketed to appeal to more than one age group have a higher failure rate than those aimed at a specific audience. I wonder what this film’s investors were thinking. If I were them, I would have sunk my money into a safer bet, like a direct-to-DVD “National Lampoon” movie loaded with innuendo. It’s a sure-fire moneymaker.
As a new parent, I have accepted the fact that I will more than likely have to sit through at least one variation of “Old Dogs” in my parenting lifetime. You’ll be able to recognize me pretty quickly: I’ll be the guy in the front row with duct tape over my mouth and steam coming out of my ears, boiling over at the fact that I can pay nearly $10 per ticket and this is the best that Hollywood can give me.

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