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For the dogs Updated version of Disney classic disappoints

Tim Allen in "The Shaggy Dog." Makes sense. It was only a matter of time, right?

Since clever, creative new films for children and adults to enjoy seem to be few and far between these days, it's certainly no shocker that Disney would continue to turn to its back catalog of classic (in the studio's minds, anyway) live-action films -- "The Parent Trap," "The Absent-Minded Professor," "The Love Bug" -- for new remake opportunities.

But must these remakes be so frantic, badly written, and headache-inducing?

"The Shaggy Dog" is emblematic of what's wrong with the majority of family films. It's part of the problem -- a big part -- and will surely be one of 2006's worst films.

Based on the fondly remembered 1959 Fred McMurray vehicle, director Brian Robbins' version lacks any of the charm or warmth of the original. Instead, it has Tim Allen, creepier special effects, a senseless back story, and much, much more noise.

Allen (who else?) stars as deputy district attorney Dave Douglas, a workaholic whose wife and kids want to see more of him at home. Douglas takes on a case involving an animal laboratory, and, wouldn't you know, becomes infected with a genetic-mutation serum that turns him into a sheepdog.

There is no discussion of the morals and ethics of the genetic modification debate here. Instead, our hero must figure out a cure, scratch himself, and along the way, fulfill a family film checklist: appreciate the wife, spend more time with the kids, and emerge a better, less furry man.

Allen's career seems maddening at times. He can be an enjoyable onscreen presence, as in "Galaxy Quest" or, vocally, in the great "Toy Story" films. But too often, he slums his way through unfunny, obnoxious family farces like "Christmas With the Kranks" and "Joe Somebody." Normally he can be counted on for a few moderately amusing grunts, but this production is so relentlessly loud that any remotely funny moments just don't register.

Adults will probably be more intrigued by the film's rather odd supporting cast. The players include Danny Glover (whose other current release, "Manderlay," is a tad different than "The Shaggy Dog"), "Sex and the City's" Kristin Davis, and, typical for a Disney family comedy, Robert Downey Jr. Perhaps doing this film is some kind of karmic punishment for past misdeeds.

This is but the latest evidence that any film with director and former "Head of the Class" star Brian Robbins' name in the credits is bad news. "The Shaggy Dog" shows virtually no sense of cinematic style and would represent a Robbins' low point, were he not the director of the wrestling "comedy" "Ready to Rumble."

I suppose it's foolish to come down too hard on a film such as this, since "The Shaggy Dog" is clearly for children and adolescents. But one certainly has the right to wish for more -- more intelligence, more wit, more humor. Families might be better served by staying in, watching the last Harry Potter film, and bracing themselves for the next asinine Disney remake. This might be a scary thought, but surely, it won't be long.

1.5 stars (out of 4)


STARRING: Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Danny Glover and Robert Downey Jr.

DIRECTOR: Brian Robbins

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

RATING: PG for mild rude humor

THE LOWDOWN: A workaholic deputy district attorney is infected with a serum that turns him into a sheepdog, and he must find a cure with his family's help.

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