I mean, I dramatically lowered my expectations before sitting down in the theater, and I knew the film probably wouldn’t be very good, but nothing prepared me for the pungent stinkiness of this frenetic, unfunny, obnoxious disaster.
Robin Williams and John Travolta co-star as long-time best friends and sports-marketing business partners Dan and Charlie. Dan is uptight, stuffy and boring; Charlie is an exciting, sexy ladies’ man. (That’s what’s the filmmakers would have us swallow, anyway.) Neither wants kids – Dan because he doesn’t understand them, and Charlie because they’d cramp his womanizing style. Suddenly, a woman (Kelly Preston) with whom Dan had a one-night marriage (don’t ask) seven years prior shows up unexpectedly and announces that: 1) she’s about to go to prison for two weeks, 2) she needs someone to watch her seven-year-old twins Zach (Conner Rayburn) and Emily (Ella Bleu Travolta), and 3) oh, yeah, p.s.: the twins are the kids Dan never knew he had.
So, borrowing from countless ill-prepared-bachelor-deals-with-fatherhood comedies before it, Old Dogs then becomes one way over-the-top slapstick mess after another. Dan and Charlie behave like grown buffoons as they try to navigate the simple task of babysitting as though they’ve never met, encountered or even seen children before. Points go to the filmmakers for, at the very least, not making the twins repellent – the kids are actually sweet and likable for a refreshing change.
But what a colossal train wreck. Everything is amped up to eleven, nothing is subtle, the physical comedy is sloppy and weirdly aggressive, the film races along at breakneck speed, the efforts at sentimentality land like lead balloons onscreen and a whole slew of otherwise impressive bit players – including Amy Sedaris, Bernie Mac, Matt Dillon and Ann-Margret – are reduced to completely pointless and ridiculous cameos. (The only one I actually liked was an uncredited Justin Long as a demented Scout leader. One slice for him alone.) Williams has never seemed older, clunkier or less funny, and Travolta – trying so very hard to cling to his decades-old sex-symbol status via his helmet of black hair – mugs so broadly that I felt embarrassed for him.
Part of me thinks that this film began as a heartfelt story about older guys learning to parent and that, somewhere along the way, Williams and Travolta signed on, someone at the production company decided it needed to “funnier” and a whack of frat boys sat around randomly coming up with scenes that don’t hang together well, aren’t remotely believable and will only appeal to ten-year-olds.
I get that this is somehow meant to be a “family comedy” but, honestly, for what kind of moronic family? Is this the type of entertainment Hollywood really believes any self-respecting parent would choose for an afternoon out with the kids?
I hope not. I really really hope not.