Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Gil Junger (10 Things I Hate About You), the new comedy Think Like a Dog may be one of the most out-there family films in a while. With a lot of pandering for international audiences and some absolutely insane plotting, this can hardly be described as a good movie, but it’s also a lot more entertaining than it has the right to be.
The film tells the story of a middle schooler whose science fair experiment has the unexpected result of him forming a telepathic connection with his dog. Even though this may seem like a pretty run-of-the-mill talking dog movie, there’s a lot more going on here, maybe even a bit too much, including a spy adventure and a cautionary tale about corporate greed.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the movie is that it tries to juggle too many things at once. In addition to the comedy and action storylines, there is an attempt to include legitimate drama. One of these storylines takes place in China and is so underdeveloped that it feels like little more than an attempt to make it appeal to a more diverse audience. It’s really a shame — that character has the potential to be really compelling but is instead just a token.
The other storyline involves the protagonist’s parents experiencing a rift in their relationship leading to a possible divorce. The film’s perspective on this issue is at least mildly problematic. The script treats divorce as if it is the single worst thing that could happen to a family when, in reality, sometimes it is necessary for the physical or mental health and safety of either the parents or the children.
That said, the film still works surprisingly well thanks to the relationship that is built between the human and canine leads. The boy and his dog stuff here works pretty well, but it’s arguably funnier to see the dog being a pre-teen’s wingman. Even though it’s silly and immature humor, it will crack kids up and amuse their adult companions.
Gabriel Bateman is definitely a very charming young actor with a very clear and developed screen presence, even when given material that is as ridiculous as this. One of the more questionable decisions in the movie is the casting of Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox as his parents. Although their age difference is minimal, they don’t have very good romantic chemistry together.
On a technical level, the film obviously isn’t made with the highest of production values, but one can’t fault it for not swinging big. There are a couple major setpieces, including one set in an airport hangar, that are minimal but mostly effective. It’s a competent modestly-budgeted family comedy.
Think Like a Dog may not be a great movie, but as mindless family entertainment, it’s more satisfying than a lot of the more recent mainstream options have been. For families needing an hour and a half of indoor diversion, this isn’t a bad choice.
Think Like a Dog hits VOD on June 9.
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