When Tyler’s furry best friend dies tragically, his inventor Dad creates a new dog to take his place – complete with mechanical powers and robotic abilities to keep everyone on their toes.
I love kids films. “Babe” is in my top-five favorite movies of all-time and “Up,” “E.T.,” and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “The Bear” are high up on that list too. None of these movies ever once pandered to their young viewers, treating them like idiots and having to explain literally everything that unfolded onscreen, instead, they were treated as audience members who were old enough to comprehend the various scenarios and situations that infused each film. Unfortunately, the makers of “Robo-Dog” must not have seen these classics because everything from the tedious opening, the characterless and nondescript storyline, and the pedestrian and uninspired conclusion, prove that making kid-friendly movies, is indeed an art-form, one sorely missing from this debacle.
I have no problem with the story; a young boy, Tyler (Michael Campion), loses his pet dog in a tragic accident and his inventor father Tom (Patrick Muldoon) uses his skill and genius to build a robotic dog who looks and acts exactly like Tyler’s previous pet. When Tom is let go from his job after one of his workplace creations doesn’t go according to plan, his boss, Mr. Willis (Wallace Shawn), learns about Robo-Dog and will stop at nothing to obtain it from him. When money proves worthless, Willis realizes that because Tom created Robo-Dog while still working for him, technically, he owns it and is legally able to claim it under his company’s name. Chaos ensues, the town nearly blows up, everything is happily resolved, and bad guys realize they were bad and become good.
The story is palpable, considering it is being aimed at a younger audience, and the film employs an engaging cast, including Patrick Muldoon, Olivia d’Abo, and the always reliable Wallace Shawn but the problem here is in the story-telling presentation. In one scene, a bad guy tries to steal Robo-Dog but because the battery inside of him is so heavy, he has trouble trying to move him. While trying to lift the dog from behind, we discover it has a built-in vacuum that just happens to be where its butt is and lo and behold, Robo-Dog turns it on, essentially sucking the bandit’s mouth right into its opening. As a young child and her mother pass by, we see the scene from their perspective and while it was obviously created to induce humor, instead, it becomes earth-shatteringly embarrassing.
There are many more scenes like it throughout but that appears to be the most memorable. While the movie does have a likable cast, they are simply wasted in what I can only assume must have been simply a paycheck. Wallace Shawn, the most memorable character from the classic movie “The Princess Bride,” looks awkward and uncomfortable from beginning to end and while Olivia d’Abo and Patrick Muldoon both appear to be putting forth some semblance of a performance, it’s pretty clear that neither want to be here. With “Robo-Dog Unleashed” scheduled for release in 2017, it appears that Ms. d’Abo had enough common sense to skip that iteration, leaving Mr. Muldoon and Mr. Wallace to pick up the pieces.
Available on DVD today
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