review by Dan
Lybarger, 10 October 2003
Because Good Boy!
involves talking dogs who are far more advanced that the people who
are their alleged masters, it's easy to dismiss it as a knock off
kid flicks like Cats and Dogs.
While there's not much to get
excited about with the new film, it does have some interesting
touches that set it apart from its predecessors. These bits don't
make it great entertainment, but they put a grin on your face in a
way that the other films couldn't.
The first and most important is
that director John Hoffman uses special effects to serve the story,
whereas Cats and Dogs went overboard with giving the animals
James Bond-like gadgets and practically bludgeoned viewers with the
Working with the folks at Jim
Henson Productions, Hoffman and company treat the idea of dogs being
intellectually superior to humans as a matter of fact. The dogs look
as if they are actually talking, and the spaceships fly
convincingly. Nonetheless, the filmmakers never feel the need to
stop the tale's pacing in order to emphasize the cool effects
The story, adapted from Zeke
Richardson's book Dog's from Outer Space by Richardson and
Hoffman deals with an earnest lad named Owen Barker (nicely played
by Liam Aiken from The Road to Perdition) who walks other
people's dogs in the hope of later having one of his own.
His folks (Saturday Night Live veterans
Kevin Nealon and Molly Shannon) restore old houses for a living, so
the family is always moving and never settling any where long enough
for Owen to make friends. Considering that most of the kids in his
current neighborhood pick on him, it's easy to see why Owen would
prefer the company of a dog.
When his folks are forced to let
him have the pooch he's always wanted, Owen chooses a feisty little
creature who interrupted the boy's walk by rousing the other
animals. When the dog that he's named Hubble runs off, Owen follows
him and hopes to take him back but discovers that the animal is
working with strange electronic devices.
Owen then awakens and discovers
that Hubble speaks (with Matthew Broderick's voice). In fact, he can
now understand what all the dogs in his neighborhood are saying, and
that the situation looks potentially grave.
Hubble's been sent from the dog
star Sirius to determine if Earth's canine's have properly conquered
Earth the way they've dominated other planets in the galaxy.
After talking with the other dogs
Hubble becomes dismayed because Earth's dogs have become, well,
pets. He and Owen diligently try to create a ruse of superiority
before his superior, the Greater Dane (voice by Vanessa Redgrave)
comes to Earth to prevent her from ordering all dogs back to Sirius
is occasionally clever, but is never laugh out loud funny or
gripping. Instead, it has a genial tone that usually carries the
picture. Hoffman and Richardson do create a few clever moments. For
example, Hubble recoils in horror when he discovers that toilets are
not drinking vessels.
The most interesting thing about Good
Boy! is the voice acting. The thespians selected to talk for the
dogs give the animals distinct and clear personalities and do it so
well that one expects the creatures to talk off screen. Delta Burke
is almost typecast as a proud poodle, and Carl Reiner seems at home
as a lazy mountain dog. The real standout, though, is Brittany
Murphy (8 Mile) as an Italian greyhound named Nelly. Murphy's
nervously high-pitched voice seems eerily at home in the dog's body.
Because Good Boy! manages to
elicit some engaging moments from a seemingly timeworn setup, it
feels more disappointing when the flaws surface. While it's obvious
that people walk dogs for reasons other than exercise, there are a
few too many jokes about feces and flatulence. Also the bullies who
taunt Owen seem meaner than necessary. Some adults at the screening
I attended recoiled when the cruel lads started throwing rocks at
Hubble and his pals.
gives its viewers a lot more than the annoying trailers would imply
and deserves special credit because, unlike the trailers, it lacks
that annoyingly overplayed tune by the Baha Men.