Old Dogs

John Travolta, Robin Williams, Seth Green, Kelly Preston, Ella Bleu Travolta, Conner Rayburn | PG |

COMEDY

Old Dogs is a dog. A flaccid, falsely sentimental comedy, it stinks worse than an unbathed basset hound that’s been lolling in pig manure for a week. Yep, it’s that bad. And that embarrassing for all involved.

Travolta and Williams play longtime BFFs and business partners. When Williams’ sad sack character learns that he is the father of 7-year-old twins (Ella Bleu Travolta and Rayburn) from a brief marriage to Preston, he volunteers to babysit the kids for two weeks while she is away. His hapless adventures in parenting—assisted by Travolta—follow, consisting of endless pratfalls, poop jokes and spotty plotting. It’s the Three Stooges minus one. Swell actors such as Matt Dillon, Rita Wilson, Amy Sedaris, Luis Guzmán and the late great Bernie Mac—clearly, this film has been in the can a while, since Mac died in August 2008—turn up briefly to be demeaned. Having said all that, I should hasten to point out that the young boy sitting in front of me at a screening was laughing so hard his chair rocked.

The Road

Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee | R |

DRAMA

Real courage is maintaining optimism in the face of despair. The unnamed father (Mortensen) in The Road, a moving post-apocalyptic drama based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, has that kind of courage—along with resourcefulness and a dogged determination to survive. After the death of his wife (Theron, seen in flashbacks), he and his young son (Smit-McPhee) slog along deserted byways, seeking shelter and scraps of food, while trying to avoid encounters with other, possibly cannibalistic survivors. It’s a grim world and a grim film, but one imbued with hopeful glints of humanity and a spare, effective performance by Mortensen.

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