Twelve year-old Owen Baker (Liam Aiken) has spent his summer break walking the neighborhood dogs to prove to his parents (Molly Shannon and Kevin Nealon) that he is responsible enough to have a dog of his own. The dog Owen eventually adopts, which he names Hubble, proves to be much smarter than the ordinary canine; Hubble instantly knows how to sit, stay, roll over, and even play dead. Based on his previous training experience, Owen finds this degree of intelligence extremely odd. In search of answers, late one night Owen follows Hubble into the woods near their home; there he sees his new dog communicating with a bright light in the sky.
Several cheesy special effects later, Owen is now somehow able to communicate with Hubble and all of the other dogs he walks, as if they were all human. Hubble (voiced by Matthew Broderick) explains that thousands of years ago dogs descended to Earth from the planet Sirius to overtake mankind, and that he was sent on a mission commissioned by the "Greater Dane" to inspect their progress. Of course what Hubble finds is a society of dogs that have strayed from their original mission to colonize; now it is up to Owen to help Hubble improve the manners of the neighbor dogs before the arrival of the Greater Dane. If they can't get their act together, the Earth's dogs will be sent back to Sirius for some serious remedial training.
Though marketed as a family film, the values in Good Boy! unfortunately taste like stale dog treats. Owen's parents seem more concerned with selling their house than with the welfare of their son as he wonders off into the woods after dark. Instead of scenes re-enforcing Owen's high degree of responsibility, we get a completely useless helping of some bullies who make fun of Owen for wearing his dog-walking uniform and talking with the dogs. Additionally, once we hit the central conflict, the film lingers for too long on the saddest moments before resolution is reached. Younger viewers may especially have some difficulty with these scenes.
The story is way out there, and the acting is completely over the top, especially from Saturday Night Live alums Shannon and Nealon. While it's a little too far-fetched for adult viewing, young kids will find it a funny exploration watching the four-legged furry friends communicate. The voice cast features the likes of Carl Reiner as a gas-passing shepard; Brittany Murphy as a fragile Italian greyhound; Delta Burke as a prim and proper poodle; and Donald Faison as a treat-loving boxer. As Owen (the only human worth paying attention to), Aiken takes command of the film with his bright smile. Along with the talking canines, Aiken prevents the film from being complete dog meat.
Though we may think we know on occasion what our dogs need, we'll never really know what they are saying. Good Boy! makes enough of an impression that it will always give us cause to wonder.
I'm not quite sure who'll sit through all the extras on the Good Boy! DVD, including commentary track, deleted scenes, and a ton of making-of featurettes and other behind-the-scenes footage. But if you're a fan, well, you'll thrill to all the extra Hubble time you get.
Meeting of the minds.
Run time: 87 mins
In Theaters: Friday 10th October 2003
Box Office USA: $37.6M
Distributed by: MGM
Production compaines: Jim Henson Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Fresh: 38 Rotten: 47
IMDB: 5.1 / 10
Director: John Hoffman
Screenwriter: John Hoffman
Starring: Molly Shannon as Mrs. Baker, Liam Aiken as Owen Baker, Matthew Broderick as Hubble (voice), Donald Faison as Wilson (voice), Cheech Marin as The Greater Dane's Henchman (voice), Brittany Murphy as Nelly (voice), Vanessa Redgrave as The Greater Dane (voice), Carl Reiner as Shep (voice), Delta Burke as Barbara Ann (voice), Kevin Nealon as Mr. Baker, Hunter Elliott as Frankie, Mikhael Speidel as Fred
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