One of the great joys of being a film critic is finding a movie that pleasantly exceeds expectations.
“Old Dogs” is not one of those movies.
Here is a comedy even more brutal than its trailer suggests - with a series of mind-numbing attempts at comedy strung together in the slowest 88 minutes of my life.
Robin Williams and John Travolta star as Dan and Charlie, longtime friends and business partners about to close the biggest account of their careers.
While the wealth should provide happiness, Dan is still quite somber - still wondering if a one-night fling with Vicki (Kelly Preston) eight years earlier was a mistake or a missed opportunity at love.
When Vicki calls and sets up a lunch date, Dan starts to believe that things are looking up. But he soon learns that the surprise meeting has an even bigger surprise - 7-year-old twins that Dan and Charlie are asked to care for while Vicki goes away for a few weeks.
The premise isn’t great as it is, but the execution - under the direction of Walt Becker - is absolutely dreadful. There is not one funny moment in this film, despite a talented parade of supporting performances (the late Bernie Mac, Seth Green, Matt Dillon, Ann-Margret, Luis Guzman and Rita Wilson) that should inject life and maybe a chuckle or two.
Williams is pretty bad, but Travolta is embarrassingly bad, making his work in the “Look Who’s Talking” films look subtle. About the only person who escapes unscathed is Preston, and that’s only because I couldn’t help but be impressed with how strikingly beautiful the 47-year-old actress still is.
It all plods along to a familiar happy ending that is supposed to leave its audience feeling warm and fuzzy. I’ll admit the ending made me happy, because it signaled the end to this miserable movie.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” (B), a rare sequel that exceeds the original.
This follow-up to the 2006 smash takes all the elements that worked in that film and adds some new layers that make this even more charming and family-friendly.
“Museum” begins two years after the original, with former security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) now a successful inventor, selling gadgets like the glow-in-the-dark flashlight.
But Larry’s past is about to catch up with him when he learns that his former employer, the American Museum of Natural History, is about to be closed for renovations that include shipping several exhibits to the Federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institution.
The next night, Larry gets a call from miniature cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) informing him that the exhibits are under attack by an Egyptian pharaoh named Kahmunrah (Hank Azaria).
With his friends in trouble, Larry heads to Washington determined to make things right and recover the mysterious tablet responsible for bringing the exhibits to life from the evil pharaoh’s grasp.
Fans of the original will be happy to see plenty of familiar faces including Wilson, Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt and Ricky Gervais as the curator of the Museum of Natural History.
Stiller is also very good, the perfect counter to all the madness around him.
But what makes “Smithsonian” stand out from its predecessor is the addition of several cast members - most notably Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.
Adams’ Earhart is a plucky and vibrant character who reminded me a lot of her work in “Enchanted,” where she really made you believe she was a naive fairy tale princess.
When she’s on the screen, “Smithsonian” soars. But even when she isn’t, there are enough moments that include Wilson, Azaria and Bill Hader’s clueless Gen. Custer that make this a film that is fun for the whole family.
“Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” is rated PG for mild action and brief language and is now available on DVD.
— Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton has begun his list of the Top 50 films of the decade. To see what has made the list so far, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.