Good Boy, not quite in the doghouse

Full-to-capacity stadium seating, artery-clogging popcorn, watery fountain drinks and about 300 children, all staring glassy-eyed and sugar-filled at a 40-foot screen. This sets the scene for any theatre playing Good Boy, the latest kid favourite.

To a child, this is a euphoric outing, however to a lone student journalist with no apparent excuse for being present, it’s a little awkward. After a moment, though, it becomes more of second childhood (assuming that the first one ever ended).

Good Boy stars Molly Shannon and Kevin Nealon in their usual goofy roles, though toned down to attempt to simulate semi-normal parents. Liam Aiken stars in his first central role, with the voices of Matthew Broderick, Brittney Murphy, Cheech Marin, Carl Reiner, Delta Burke and Donald Faison.

In a perfect, sunny suburban town, Owen (Aiken) spends his summer walking dogs to prove to his parents he can handle the responsibility of getting a pet of his own. As all the residents of his neighbourhood seem to have a canine complement, this turns out to be a successful venture. At the end of his trial, Owen picks out his new best friend, Hubble, a scrappy wire-haired terrier (voiced by Broderick), leading him to discover dogs are really a colonial race sent to take over the world.

Though meant to be a heartwarming kids movie, there is a definite "artsy" influence. In one scene, a bottle of laughing gas gets tipped over and drugged-up little pooches run around stoned in choppy camera work. A fairly accurate drug experience, according to the Rez folk at any rate..

Writer/director John Hoffman covered all his bases when he created Owen’s neighbourhood. Half of the movie’s appeal is seeing the variety of lifestyles. The gay couple whose dog is a cornerstone of the family, the widower whose dog is the focus of all his attention, the rich woman whose pampered poodle gets frequent visits to the spa, and the stereotypical white, suburban family, and their black best friend. Also, the super-space-dogs are a matriarchal society, so more points for political correctness.

In fact, Hoffman’s film almost has socio-political undertones. Maybe he just wanted to be different, but either way, there’s a lot more in this film than one would expect.

If you’re a university student who just happened to like Spy Kids and might be considering it an option, don’t pay to see it. If, however, you’re looking for a plethora of classy dog jokes to impress 40-something parents and drunks, Good Boy is sure to deliver.

And the kids will like it, too.

Good Boy opens Oct. 10 in theatres across Calgary. Rated PG for some mild crude humour.

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