The Shaggy Dog

(2006) ** Pg
98 min. Walt Disney Pictures. Director: Brian Robbins. Cast: Tim Allen, Kristin Davis, Zena Grey, Spencer Breslin, Danny Glover.

Strictly for kids and Disney completists, The Shaggy Dog unleashes the best cast money can buy on a remake of the 1959 Fred MacMurray-Tommy Kirk-Annette Funicello original. Where once an ancient spell would do, a 300-year-old mystical Tibetan dog corralled as genetic fodder for a Fountain-of-Youth serum emerges from five screenwriters as the raison d'être for Tim Allen turning into a dog and scampering and slobbering his way to the bank.

No obvious joke is left unplayed. Wait for iiittt...yes, there's Allen lifting his leg to pee. I checked my watch when the sound of Baja Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out?" surrounded me: fifty minutes in. Brian Robbins, your restraint must be commended (the director takes another step sideways from movies like Varsity Blues, Hard Ball, and The Perfect Score). But of course, there's heart, too. I think Kristin Davis, as Allen's wife, puts it best when she tells her terminally distracted hubby, "You have to do more than talk a good game...You have to connect with the whole family again."

Allen's daughter (Zena Gray) is an animal-rights activist; his son (Spencer Breslin) hates his dad's beloved football and pines to headline school-musical Grease. Meanwhile, Dad's prosecuting an animal-rights activist on behalf of an evil pharmaceutical corporation run by Robert Downey Jr.'s puppet-master ("Don't worry about the FDA—it's nothing money can't handle"). Allen's callousness to animals is duly corrected when he befriends a frog-dog, snake-dog, rabbit-dog, and chimp-dog on his way to saving the day.

The aforementioned actors are joined by Danny Glover, Jane Curtin, Philip Baker Hall, Craig Kilborn, and Shawn Pyfrom (Desperate Housewives) as reactors to Allen's strange switcheroos. I'd watch Downey read the phone book, and Allen has his moments (he nails the scene establishing his heightened senses), but mostly The Shaggy Dog is a mild embarrasment to its players (Allen: "It took the eyes of a dog to make me see..."). And let's face it, kids will take a shine to the already-announced sequel just as much as they will to the 2006 version of The Shaggy Dog.

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