Good Boy doesn't quite make the concept of "good"

Oct. 14, 2003, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 20 years, 8 months ago

Imagine a bunch of excited talking dogs, a lonely but amiable little boy, some more talking dogs, and more talking dogs, and you've got Good Boy, a movie with the best of intentions which doesn't click.

Owen Baker (Liam Aiken) is a friendless little boy whose dream is to have a dog. After three months of walking the neighborhood canines to prove to his parents that he is responsible, he is finally allowed to adopt Hubble, who lo and behold, turns out to be Canid 3942, an extraterrestrial dog from the planet Sirius. Through an accident with Hubble's communications device, the "woofer," Owen is granted the ability to talk to dogs.

Hubble, as Owen finds out, is sent to Earth by the Greater Dane, the "canine-in-chief" of all dogs, to report on the earth dogs' progress in dominating the planet. Imagine Hubble's disbelief when he finds that instead of dominating the planet, earth dogs have become pets for human beings! Next come the drastic measures to prevent the Greater Dane's "global recall," where all earth dogs are recalled back to Sirius for punishment and retraining. Through all this, Owen helps the dogs, evoking only more concern from his clueless parents and mockery from the neighborhood bullies.

The only thing I can say to writers Zeke Richardson and John Hoffman is nice try, because despite all attempts at creativity and originality, Good Boy doesn't quite get there. Sure, you have your alien canines, your discovery of the importance of friendship and your lovable little boy. The only problem is that the friend-from-another-planet scheme has been overused, the relationship between man and his best friend has been explored and the companionless little boy has appeared in about a million other films. The story is complete with the clueless parents who never understand their son and the bullies who make a sport out of picking on the protagonist. This movie is flat-out lackluster and banal. It makes you squirm in your seat for the want of getting away from all that dullness.

Other attempts at creativity and comedy also fail. The Greater Dane (Vanessa Redgrave) is described by Hubble as a stern, no-nonsense queen who is capable of wiping all dogs off the face of the earth. She turns out to be exactly that, a strict, humorless, huge black dog with an ugly, spotted, drill-sergeant henchman, that looks like, in the words of one of the dogs, a "rat with a wig."

Predictable, predictable. The audience knows what will happen from the get-go. It would have been better if the Greater Dane turned out to be a Chihuahua. At least then there would have been some shocks and unexpected comedy.

Even the chase scene is so banal it's like nails on a chalkboard to the nerves. Two bullies are hounded by a group of dogs and wreak havoc all over the neighborhood, including the Bakers' party for potential house buyers. It's simply not funny. The whole scene is a chaotic mess with two annoying little bullies and a bunch of dogs.

Uninspired storylines aside, the actors in the movie deserve some praise. Aiken's portrayal of Owen is amazing. He lets the audience know right from the beginning that Owen is lonely and frustrated, yet versatile and kind, and all of Owen's expressions, concerns and disappointments are genuine and believable. Hubble, voiced by Matthew Broderick, is lovable too. He has a way of looking like an adorable puppy with an inordinate amount of wisdom and stress. Hubble's facial expressions are extraordinary and sincere as he portrays his frustration, fatigue, concern and whatever else he's feeling. For a dog, that's a pretty big accomplishment. Together, Owen and Hubble make a cute, unbeatable team. Unfortunately, it's just not enough to make the movie interesting.

Apparently the writers of the movie never got the memo that films were meant to entertain, not induce sleep. Too many elements in the movie are too trite, too tedious and too predictable. Good Boy doesn't do too well when it comes to being good.

Good Boy: Rated PG for some mild crude humor. Running time 88 minutes.

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Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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