Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review: Old Dogs (2009)

Director: Walt Becker
Starring: John Travolta, Robin Williams

You know, with movies like this, I don’t even think there’s much human input at all. It’s just like a machine spitting out cliché plotlines, shallow characters and unfunny lines into a mishmash of blandness. And by god is this bland – I mean, you have no idea. It’s so bland it hurts. Watching this was like having to listen to a dentist drill in your ear for an hour and a half, and actually I’m tempted to say that would be preferable to watching Old Dogs again.

Yes, starring John Travolta and Robin Williams, because…I got nothing; they just picked these two big Hollywood comedic actors’ names out of a hat…Old Dogs was a commercial and critical flop, and for good reason, because this movie just sucks ass! And that’s good enough reason for me to take a look at it and put a nail in this kind of half-assed toothless comedic farce once and for all. Let us commence the beating.

It starts off with Travolta and Williams – I’m sure they have other names but I’m just going to call them by their real ones – walking down the street and arguing about what’s going to happen in their latest business venture, which is as vague and generic as any half-assed comedy ever put out. And what are their characters like? Well, what kinds of characters do they usually play? Travolta as a womanizing and suave nice guy with a voice so girly that most women talk to him because they think he’s a woman himself? Williams as a bumbling fool with a heart of gold and a temper like a volcano? Check aaaaaand check! And yes, I have my revolver on standby for this.

So after Williams begs Travolta not to tell an embarrassing story about him to the board of directors at the meeting later, like a true friend, Travolta goes ahead and tells exactly that story. What a douche. The direction here takes on a very annoying ‘snapshot’ style where short, quick scenes are shoved in your face like clumsily made religious pamphlets from a street leper as Travolta’s voice over tells the story. This is the kind of lazy crap that a lot of modern ‘comedies’ fall into. They seem to think that instead of telling a real story, they can just throw in a bunch of hastily made two-second scenes with shitty music playing over it and hope people laugh. Well I’m not laughing, movie!

Oh, right. So apparently after his first divorce, Williams was depressed and Travolta took him on a tropical vacation where he got a tattoo misspelled by an idiot tattoo artist and then married some chick he didn’t know just because she looked hot, only to leave her the next day out of shame. It’s the kind of boring crap that these kinds of movies substitute for real comedy because they think people can relate to it, or something like that. Because having any real comedy with out-there scenarios and jokes that actually call attention to themselves is just immature!

The next day, Williams gets a message from that chick he married when he was drunk, and she wants to meet him in person to talk. Travolta forces Williams to go to a tanning salon because the movie needs to set up the first of its many hilarious hijinks. Oh, what’s it going to be, movie? Maybe things are looking up after all. What’s that? The salon lady looks at his tattoo funny and then proceeds to flirt with Travolta while Williams gets a mega tan that makes him look like a Guido or something. Nope, that’s not funny at all. Pass.

At the airport, Williams gets stopped by like three people in a row who think he’s Hispanic because of the heavy tan, because…I guess that’s all they’ve got. They can’t even make any real jokes, so they’re just throwing in bland misunderstandings and hoping they get a chuckle or two. It’s like a high schooler who spent his whole night on the Internet looking up porn instead of doing the big project that’s due the next day, and so he had to throw something crappy together at the last minute, appeasing the teacher’s mercy with the barest of his wit. That’s this whole movie. A shoveled together, last minute attempt at humor from a writer who spent his evenings getting drunk because this was the only work he was getting. And who can blame him?

Ugh. So Williams meets with the chick he married when he was drunk, and they exchange several bouts of creepily awkward laughter, because THAT shows us that these two characters haven’t seen each other in a while, right? They go to a restaurant when she drops two bombshells on him one after the other: she’s going to jail for chaining herself to a bulldozer and protesting the destruction of her home (….okay…), AND she has kids. Williams’ kids. Yup, he’s a father. A father who has to impress business executives in order to get a big stake in the company and has to take care of his kids as well. Can you feel the quirkiness yet? Because it’s coming. It’s coming in absurdly small amounts so as to not alienate any of the viewers, because good comedy never takes any risks, right? It never has anything that could possibly offend anyone.

…oh, I forgot this scene, where Williams slams the trunk door on the kids’ original babysitter, ruining her hands:

Charming! I bet she’ll be depressed for weeks and never be able to use her hands fully again for at least a year, but at least you got some laug…at least it was funn…oh, wait, I can’t think of any positives. Scratch that.

So now Williams and Travolta have to take care of two kids. It’s like Two and a Half Men if it was robbed of all good taste and any kind of jokes. For some weird ass reason the film starts to make jokes about how old Travolta and Williams are, with almost every other line having something to do with the two of them being grandpa age. Uh, are we missing something? These guys are old enough to be grandpas? I don’t know; I mean sure they’re not young men anymore, but grandpas? Hardly.

There’s one scene where Williams gets kicked out of his expensive condominium for bringing kids in – and trying to disguise them with hats and sunglasses, because that usually works. The alarm goes off and the lights turn on like there’s a burglar in the house, and the woman Williams talks to runs screaming like she’s being attacked. Ha. Haha…oh, wait, it wasn’t funny.

Then they move in with Travolta, who has poison-tipped spears in glass cases, a fifteen feet deep pool and other things eccentric rich people normally have for no apparent reason other than to seem different and quirky. Williams hires two morons to ‘baby-proof’ the house, which in this movie means asking stupid questions (“You got these spears a thousand years ago? You expect me to believe that?”) and eating food out of the fridge, like total assholes who any sane person would throw out and have arrested in a second, but the movie needs to have more things to kick around its two punching bags of main characters. The kids want to go camping, and scream so loud that they make the birds fly away, and so that’s what they do next! Camping.

This is the point where the movie really slides off a cliff and becomes flat out intolerable as opposed to just silly and clichéd. I’m going to try and sum up what happens in the next half hour of the movie without killing myself or setting out on a quest to murder everyone involved in this. Take a deep breath, people. This is gonna get ugly real fast.

So they go to camp, where this one weirdo thinks Travolta stole his girlfriend. The two guys get mistaken for a gay couple, and then they’re forced to participate in a game of ultimate Frisbee, where Williams hurts that weird guy and busts his lip. They get tackled and shoved around a lot and probably violently hurt, and then Williams blows the head off this statue of the camp’s founder. Then somehow he sets the whole thing on fire? I don’t know. They go back to the house and talk about taking pills like old men, except AGAIN they’re really not that old, so I don’t get why the movie keeps pretending they are. Does the movie assume we can’t tell the difference between the middle-aged Williams and Travolta and actual old people above the age of 65 or so? That’s really stupid, movie.

The kids knock over all the pills while Travolta and Williams aren’t looking, and thus more annoying garbage ensues as the two hapless bland personas suffer all the worst, most cartoony side effects of the pills when they’re trying to do important things, like hit on women at grief circles, and play golf games with Japanese men and Seth Green:

Ghastly. Can’t this movie even try to conjure up something watchable? Just once?

For that matter, yeah, this woman who Travolta was hitting on invited him to come to a grief circle where everyone just grieves about people, I guess. That’s all fine and well but…WHY would she invite some random guy who was hitting on her to a grief circle? Oh yeah, that’s real top notch dating material there! Is she going to have the honeymoon at a funeral parlor? Maybe first conception in the middle of a graveyard? It’s all just happiness and butterflies for this woman, isn’t it?

So because Robin Williams feels that he isn’t connecting with his kids enough, Travolta gives him some sound advice: Just be there for them, protect them and do what they want to do. So how do they go about that? Get this. Travolta takes Williams to a guy played by Bernie Mac who has developed a highly experimental ‘human puppet’ system where two people wear suits, with one moving his body and the other one being manually controlled to do whatever the first guy is doing. Because of this, Travolta and Bernie Mac are able to sit upstairs and control Williams’ movements as he has a pretend tea-party with his daughter.

Is it weird that the only thing going through my head during this was, "where did they get those costumes?"

Uh…okay. This is too much. THIS is their idea of how to foster better bonding between a father and his kids?! You can’t be serious! You really can’t be serious! That’s ludicrous. It doesn’t even matter how much you try to cover it up with sappy, poorly done emotional scenes afterward; normal human beings would never consider something like this as an alternative. Movie, shoot yourself. Repeatedly!

GOD! The rest of the film goes like this: Williams’ wife gets out of jail, and comes home, but Williams and Travolta have to go to Japan to seal the big business deal. They blow it because Williams is homesick for his family, and then the two of them and Seth Green have to invade a zoo to crash the birthday party and be there like they promised. Williams bribes a stuntman to borrow his costume and go to his kids, while Seth Green is kidnapped by a gorilla. It all ends happily ever after with this:

AAAAAAAHHHHH! That's the scariest thing I've ever seen.

Fuck this movie. It’s unfunny, it’s annoying, it’s clichéd and there’s simply nothing good about it, barely any scenes that aren’t completely horrible. Be ashamed if you ever spend money on corporate shitstockings as putrid as this. It is quite simply, unwatchable. And that’s no lie.