Good Boy! (March 5/04)
It's impossible to avoid comparisons to Cats and Dogs when discussing Good Boy!, as both films feature talking pets. And while Good Boy! is by no means a great movie, it is certainly an improvement over Cats and Dogs (which had some impressive special effects, but not much else).
The story revolves around a kid named Owen (Liam Aiken), who's spent the past few months walking the neighborhood dogs to prove to his parents (Kevin Nealon, Molly Shannon) that he's responsible enough to have one of his own. As it happens, the canine he winds up adopting is actually an alien from the planet Sirius, sent to Earth to check up on the progress of his fellow dogs. Hubble (voiced by Matthew Broderick) is shocked to learn that his species is content to exist as pets to humans, but eventually comes to appreciate the give-and-take relationship that exists between the two lifeforms.
Good Boy! comes awfully close to warranting a positive review - it's right on the precipice - but the film is ultimately too silly to really appeal to older viewers. What prevents the movie from becoming anything more than a disposable kiddie flick is the overuse of broad comedy and some simplistic characters (ie the bullies that torment Owen). Though some of the performances are surprisingly decent - particularly Aiken, who shows an impressive range - it's not quite enough to make up for the fact that this is, when you get right down to it, a film designed to keep small children entertained.
Writer/director John Robert Hoffman thankfully keeps things moving, and the voice work from folks like Broderick and Brittany Murphy (as a high-strung Chihuahua) is expectedly enjoyable. Instances of sentimentality - particularly towards the end, as Hubble accepts his role as Owen's pet - aren't as jarring as they could've been, though the predictability of the script does prepare one for such moments.
Good Boy! is one of those movies that's perfectly suited for the small screen, and isn't nearly the excruciating experience it could've been.