Any time a movie is released with the general premise of “a boy and his dog,” you know it isn’t going to be all that unique. That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be a great film. For example, “E.T., The Extra Terrestrial” was basically about a boy and his dog (with the dog being an alien, of course). In “Good Boy,” the alien happens to be a dog.
Canid 3492 (Matthew Broderick) is a dog from outer space that has come to Earth to check up on his brethren. Of course, this reveals what the true purpose of dogs is: to be the rulers of the world. While I do know a few folks that are beholden to their dogs, we all know who has the opposable thumbs in most relationship.
Canid 3492 is captured by the dog catcher and taken to the pound. There, he is adopted by 12-year old Owen (Liam Aiken), a reclusive kid who is coming to get his first dog ever. Owen’s parents (Molly Shannon and Kevin Nealon) make a living out of buying, fixing up and reselling real estate, so his lifestyle is transient to say the least. Because he always ends up moving not too long after settling in, Owen’s only real friends are the dogs that he walks for a part-time job.
Owen renames Canid 3492 “Hubble” and takes him one. That night, Hubble sends a status report to his home base on Sirius (the dog star), and Owen is caught in the beam. The next day, he suddenly can understand what dogs say. Owen learns about Hubble’s mission and, with the help of the other dogs in the neighborhood, tries to convince the interstellar dog leader – the Greater Dane – that dogs really rule the world.
I remember back before the days of Ferris Bueller when Matthew Broderick was just the punk kid from “War Games.” But I’ve gotta hand it to the guy. He’s made some incredible coups in his career, including starring role in the stage version of “The Producers” and even convincing Sony Pictures that he could be an action star in “Godzilla.” And before the success of “Sex and the City” after which he became known as Sarah Jessica Parker’s husband, Broderick even successfully made a grab for voice work as Simba in Disney’s “The Lion King,” one of the most successful animated films ever.
But I’ll tell you this, “Good Boy” is no “Lion King.” It really isn’t a “Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” either. “Good Boy” is just what it says – good. Not great, but not really bad, either.
One of the most distracting things about the film is when it falls into the trap that befalls many performances that involve animals. It forces jokes and gags based on tricks that the handlers can teach the animals. This is one thing when you’re watching the sea lion show at Sea World, but in a filmed piece, it could have been handled better.
I have fond childhood memories of seeing a Disney film called “The Cat From Outer Space,” starring Sandy Duncan and McLean Stevenson. Not having seen this film in years (and considering that Disney hasn’t done a big video release on it as a “classic”), I’m sure it really wasn’t all that hot. But when I was eight, it was awesome. I’d be willing to bet “Good Boy” has the same age-specific appeal.
I took my 2-year old son to this film, and he liked it. It was no “Bambi” (his current favorite video at home), but he liked it. The film is good, wholesome fun (as long as you can withstand a few fart jokes, care of Shep, voiced by Carl Reiner). It will probably go down in American cinema history with about as much reverence as “The Cat From Outer Space,” but for the time being it’s a good bet for the kids on a Saturday afternoon.