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'Good Boy!' not great

October 10, 2003|Gene Seymour | Newsday

If a boy who really wants a dog doesn't get one before he turns 13, his parents are never going to get him one. I have no data, government-sponsored or otherwise, that backs me on this. It just seems to work out that way. The kids stop wanting dogs after age 12. The movies (among other things) tell me so. And they're never wrong. They're just sappy, sometimes. Like "Good Boy!," a sweet, starchy kiddie flick about a 12-year-old named Owen (Liam Aiken) who wants a dog more than anything in the whole wide world.

A lot of kids say this, of course, but you can sort of see the how and why of Owen's yearnings because he doesn't seem to be able to make friends with anyone except dogs and their owners. It's not his fault, either. His parents ("Saturday Night Live" alumni Molly Shannon and Kevin Nealon) seem to stay in a house just long enough to restore it, sell it and move on.

Nevertheless, they're willing to give Owen a dog of his own. And it turns out to be a dead ringer for 1970s pop-dog-cult hero Benji that he promptly names Hubble. The dog's real name, it turns out, is 3942 and he's on a reconnaissance mission from -- wait for it -- the Dog Star Sirius to check out whether canines have fulfilled their millennia-old mission to dominate the Earth. Owen finds out about this because 3942 tells him so with Matthew Broderick's voice. How? Why? Can't help you there, because the movie isn't that clear about it either.

Does it have to be? No. But somehow, you wish "Good Boy!" aspired to a less formulaic cleverness and sentimentality than shown here. The dogs move their mouths in convincing ways and they say funny enough things. But all they do is remind you of the "Babe" movies. And as long as you keep thinking of "Babe," you can't help thinking that there's no excuse for movies like "Good Boy!" to merely push the usual buttons, deploy the usual poop jokes and carry out the usual sight gags.


'Good Boy!'

MPAA rating: PG for some mild crude humor.

Times guidelines: The potty humor is mild and mercifully minimal.

Liam Aiken...Owen Baker

Molly Shannon...Mrs. Baker

Kevin Nealon...Mr. Baker

Matthew Broderick...Hubble

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures presents a Jim Henson Pictures production, released by MGM. Director John Hoffman. Producers Lisa Henson, Christine Belson. Executive producer Stephanie Allain. Screenplay by John Hoffman, story by Zeke Richardson and Hoffman based on "Dogs From Outer Space" by Richardson. Cinematographer James Glennon. Editor Craig P. Herring. Costume designer Antonia Bardon. Music Mark Mothersbaugh. Production designer Jerry Wanek. Art director John Marcynuk. Set decorator Penny Chalmers. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. In general release.

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