Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Old Dogs.”
The Movie: “Old Dogs”
Starring: Robin Williams, John Travolta, Seth Green
Director: Walt Becker
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Two friends and business partners find their lives turned upside down when strange circumstances lead them to be the temporary guardians of seven year-old twins.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 5 percent
Froemming: After the waking nightmare that was Adam Sandler Month, Brown just couldn’t wait to go back to the cinematic slop trough, force-feeding us the (REDACTED) that was “Wild Wild West.” Well, Brown, two can play this game. And in this global pandemic, I got a (figurative) fever, and the only prescription is John (REDACTED) Travolta.
It has been a while since we’ve gone back to the Travolta Well. The man is, after all, our unofficial mascot. So after some heavy soul searching, I found the perfect Travolta vehicle: “Old Dogs.” A movie that raíses the questions: What would it be like if Robin Williams was (REDACTED) Travolta’s real-life wife? How long can Rita Wilson keep her eyes crossed in a comedic fashion? And, most importantly, would Travolta be the perfect actor for The Joker?
Well, we are about to find out.
Brown, as I hire Dax Shepard to child proof your apartment, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: For at least the second time in JOE-DOWN history, when you picked this movie, my first thought was “Wait, didn’t we already do this one?”
Nope, that was “Wild Hogs.”
And honestly, this movie is pretty much “Wild Hogs,” minus the hogs.
At this point, I’ve lost count on how many Travolta movies we’ve done. With COVID-19, I’m kind of glad we weren’t able to do “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” since we already reviewed that gem.
I legit didn’t even know “Old Dogs” was a movie. But lo and behold, there it was on Disney-Plus to screw with my sister’s family’s algorithm, much like how I do already with binge-watching the old “X-Men” cartoon.
Anywho, let’s get this review started before I have to drive you to jail and lie to your kids about where you are for two (REDACTED) weeks, Froemming.
Froemming: We get an intro that features some of the worst Photoshop work I have seen in a long while of best friends and business partners Dan (Williams) and Charlie (Travolta) through the years. Which made me wonder the odds there was never a photo of these two in the 70s coked out of their minds at Studio 54. But alas, I guess there was not.
Brown: Don’t forget this credit sequence has a Bryan Adams song. The same Bryan Adams the Canadian government had to apologize for.
Froemming: Canada has a lot of apologizing to do with unleashing Adams upon an unsuspecting world.
After these baffling credits, we see these two at a business meeting, where Charlie is regaling the clients with hilarious tales of Dan’s divorces. Oh man, I know I love it when Brown points mine out for humor at parties and other social gatherings!
Brown: Between you and my brother, I’ve been the best man at two weddings that have since ended in divorce!
Anyhow, Charlie’s favorite tale is about Dan’s first divorce and subsequent marriage 14 hours later following what I can only assume was a Squishie bender.
Along with getting a dumb tattoo that says “FREEMONT” instead of “FREEDOM” because lol foreigners (this is a Disney movie, BTW), Dan had a quickie marriage that was annulled.
Froemming: A quick marriage to John Travolta’s real wife, Kelly Preston. Is Scientology promoting a cuck lifestyle?
Brown: I knew Travolta was a cuck the moment he flashed that beta male smile on “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
Froemming: We should also point out the other woman at this wedding that was sort of with Charlie is Rita Wilson, who I swear does not have a single scene in this movie where she does not comedically cross her eyes like a sociopath.
Hasn’t this poor woman suffered enough with coronavirus, or as Norm Macdonald calls it: Tom Hanks Disease.
Brown: Also, we have Aunt Becky here! She’s a Japanese translator for a sports business deal that Dan and Charlie are trying to secure with the Japanese.
Froemming: “Fuller House” AND John Travolta!
Brown: I don’t recall saying what these Japanese people do other than, you know, being Japanese. And honestly, John Travolta strikes me as the kind of guy who yells “Touchdown” after someone hits a home run at a baseball game. So, you know, like Froemming.
Despite the fact he’s been divorced for seven years and lives in an (apparent) high-end singles community, he’s still pining over John Travolta’s wife. The same one who was divorced quicker than Brittany Spears and (the non-”Seinfeld” one) Jason Alexander’s 55-hour marriage.
So Dan plans on meeting with Travolta’s wife, whom he has been speaking on the phone with secretly for some time. And when he meets up with her, she has two bombshells.
- The night they consummated the marriage as a weeping Travolta looked on from the corner, she became pregnant and gave birth to twins. But never told him because, let’s face it, this guy hangs out with Travolta. I wouldn’t want my children anywhere near that man either.
- She committed a crime and has to do some hard time in the Oswald State Correctional Facility for *looks at notes* two weeks? Who goes to prison for two weeks? This is not how this works. This is not how any of this works!
Brown: A couple things before we move on.
- Seth Green is a protege to Dan and Charlie and is really, really hoping the Japan deal goes through because he’s a massive Otaku who’ll one day let karaoke consume his life.
- It takes just eight minutes into this movie before John Travolta rubs his filthy hands on another person’s face. I would say in the midst of coronavirus, you shouldn’t emulate John Travolta but honestly, you should NEVER emulate John Travolta on ANYTHING.
- Before Dan meets his ex-wife/John Travolta’s actual wife, Charlie suggests Dan get a spray tan. And thanks to several “hilarious” hijinks, Robin Williams looks like C. Thomas Howell in “Soul Man.” I’d like to remind you again that this is a (REDACTED) Disney movie.
Froemming: Disney made “Song of the South,” why are you shocked by their racism?
Anywho, while she is doing hard time for her crimes, Vicki needs someone to watch her bastard children and Dan agrees, because of the guilt of being a deadbeat dad for seven years that he didn’t know about until a few minutes prior.
Brown: No, he decides to babysit because he injured Tom Hanks’ wife, who’s a hand model in this movie, by accidentally slamming her hands on the trunk of a car.
Froemming: He pulled an old Mike Moffit on the poor, poor woman.
Brown: So he still would have been an absentee father had it not been for hospitalization. …
*Sigh* I don’t want to think of Robin Williams as a bad father at any point. He seemed like a delightful father. He seems like he did wonderfully with his real-life daughter Zelda, whom I absolutely have a crush on as an adult.
But no, Disney dictates that he be a man clearly overwhelmed at the prospects of fatherhood in his 40s.
Froemming: 40s? That is generous for these two actors clearly at least in their 50s.
Brown: It’s bad enough Dan has to deal with man-child Charlie, who has the looks of a Madame Tussauds wax statue and the personality of Ted Bundy.
Not for nothing, but did Travolva break out his wig from “The Punisher” for this movie?
Froemming: The best part of any post-1980s Travolta movie is seeing what weird-ass wig he is going to sport.
So Dan picks up the kids, but soon realizes the single condo building he lives in does not support children, what with all the rampant sex going on and whatnot. So he brings the family to Charlie’s, where he lays the blame of this whole mess at his best friend and one-time cuckold’s feet.
Brown: I just realized this looking at the “Old Dogs” Wikipedia: Emily, who is Dan’s daughter, is played by Ella Bleu Travolta.
So now Travolta’s daughter is in a movie where her dad gets brutally cucked.
What (REDACTED) evil did you put at our feet, Froemming?!
Froemming: My buddy Dan suggested it, saying it is truly a messed-up movie. I thought that was hyperbole. I was proven wrong.
Charlie, being guilted into something he doesn’t want to do by Dan yet again, agrees to have them stay. And when he wakes the next morning, Dax Shepard and Greendale Community College Alumnus Luis Guzmán are there, child-proofing his home.
Dan did this without asking. Probably like how he slept with Charlie’s wife without asking.
Brown: Trying to be a good dad, Dan starts helping his son, Zach, with a list of things he wants to accomplish. The first thing: using the men’s restroom.
So while his son is dropping a deuce, Dan is standing there in the stall, which is both disturbing and incredibly unsanitary.
Also, they clearly used the handicapped stall, which Larry David taught all of us is a BIG no-no.
Froemming: His son also asks him where babies come from as he is dropping some logs. I feel like this scene is a federal crime somehow.
Brown: Oh, we’re definitely on some sort of list after watching this movie.
Froemming: Another item on the boy’s list is to go camping. As scouts. He and his sister have the uniforms and everything and Dan and Charlie have to cut work short to fulfill this dream. And what follows is a series of events that still baffle me. Most notably: Prison Rules for frisbee? What in the actual (REDACTED) is that?
The scout leader is Matt Dillon, who was once a promising star in Hollywood but years of bad decisions and all brought him to the set of “Old Dogs,” where he worships his grandfather like some pagan god and is pretty homophobic when he thinks Charlie and Dan are a couple.
Brown: Yeah, I always thought Matt Dillon would be way bigger than he ended up being. Hell, he was nominated for an Academy Award. Following “Crash” (which IMO, way overrated movie), he did “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” “You, Me and Dupree” and “Old Dogs” over a five-year span.
Anyway, here at the camp, Charlie is being eyeballed by Justin Long, who is accusing him of stealing his girlfriend. Long apparently can’t tell how unbelievable this premise is, what with Charlie being a cuck and all. And then all the adults get a good old game of competitive frisbee going? It is like football, but with a frisbee. I have never seen anything like this in real life.
Brown: Wait, you never had to play ultimate frisbee in gym class or anything?
Froemming: No, I am not a dirty hippie.
Brown: I was a football player in high school and we still played ultimate frisbee every week in weight training and conditioning. It’s fun. And nothing like how the movie portrayed it.
Froemming: Had no idea you were a dirty hippie. Just like Charles Manson was.
Brown: Listen you crazy mother! I put my disheveled pants caked in pot smoke one leg at a time just like any other man.
(Note: I do not. I dislike hippies as much as Cliff Booth)
Back to the movie, Justin Long is also here as Justin Long with a mustache, thinking that Travolta stole his ex-wife.
What kind of fantasy nightmare are we in this world where Travolta’s character is attractive to every woman despite the fact he got horrendously cucked by his best friend?
After ultimate frisbee, the camp proceeds to shoot clay pigeons. Matt Dillon is holding two shotguns and shooting the targets down in what may be the worst display of gun safety in cinema history. Seriously, you’re around kids. You’re one slip of the finger from shooting one of these kids full of bird shot like Dick Cheney did to his friend.
Froemming: Yup. Teaching children about gun safely in the most unsafe way. That may be OK for NRA members, because sanity is not their strong suit, but for us normals that is wildly dangerous.
And we see how dangerous it is when Dan slips and blasts a bullet at Dillon’s pagan god’s head. Forever cursing the actor to bit roles and small parts for the rest of his life. Later on, Dan sets the thing on fire. Which I assumed doomed Dillon to never be seen in a movie ever again.
Brown: Well, we go from one unsafe moment to another as Zach accidentally knocks over Dan and Charlie’s pill boxes, mixing the duo’s various medications.
For how much Charlie’s home was childproofed, no one thought to childproof the medicine cabinets?! Are you mad?
Also, weird aside, but for a guy who lives in the ultimate bachelor pad, why does Charlie have two bathroom sinks attached to the master bedroom? Dude give no inclination about ever getting married. He just seems concerned with bangin’ Aunt Becky, which is his plan for the day while Dan goes golfing with Seth Green and the Japanese businessmen from before in hopes of locking up the big-money deal.
Dan’s depth perception is thrown off by the pill mixture and he’s tripping balls like Frank Reynolds.
Froemming: He literally becomes Mr. No Depth Perception!
Brown: Meanwhile, Charlie is at Aunt Becky’s house at what turns out to be a grieving group’s potluck. So people are talking about losing loved ones and (I assume, considering the hostess) discussing how to pay for your underachieving kids to get into high-end colleges.
Charlie’s side effects: unquenchable hunger and the Smylex chemical from the the Jack Nicholson “Batman.”
I mean, look at this guy!
I’ll say it: Travolta would make a much more (REDACTED)-up Joker than Nicholson, Ledger or Phoenix.
Froemming: Combine that grin, the sociopathic rage of Bud from “Urban Cowboy” and a bit of the gangster that is Vincent Vega in “Pulp Fiction” and we have the best on-screen Joker ever.
So Dan is tripping balls, Fear & Loathing at the Country Club if you will and convinces the Japanese investor he is a serious man by whacking golf balls into the groins of the younger men, which would make Hans Moleman proud.
Brown: After their trying day, Dan and Charlie get back to work, where Dan makes an off-hand comment about not wanting kids because Zach unplugged their fax machine. Aside from being an insensitive jackass, who the hell had a fax machine in 2009?
Froemming: Our college newspaper did, that’s who!
Brown: Oh yeah! I completely forgot about that.
Dan is still unsure on how to relate to kids (evident after he shook the hand of his daughter/Travolta’s actual daughter while putting her to bed). So, to try and help Dan not be so weird, Charlie enlists the help of a super weirdo by the name of Jimmy Lunchbox, played by Bernie Mac, who died before this movie was released.
The last role for Bernie Mac was named (REDACTED) Jimmy Lunchbox…
Anyways, apparently Jimmy invented some dohickamabob (technical term) that lets Charlie control Dan via nodes on his body that control his movements or something while having a tea party with Emily.
Look, this is a stupid idea for a throwaway joke, but I’ll give Robin Williams credit for committing to the physical humor for a movie that did not deserve that kind of effort. Honestly, I really liked Williams in this role because he does find a good balance of his goofiness and the gravitas he brings to his more serious role. You do feel as though he’s an overwhelmed new father giving this the ol’ college try.
Speaking of the ol’ college try, Zelda Williams, if you’re reading (and I know you are), can I take you out sometime? We’ll get In-And-Out! I wanna hear about your voice work in “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and your documentary about dominatrixes!
Anywho, this whole scene made no sense to me so let’s move on. Zach uses Dan’s work computer (?) and talks to the Japanese investors, mocking a car company and saying robots are cool, thus handing his father and his father’s cuck a million dollar deal. And so, they send Seth Green to Tokyo to work with the company. And life goes on.
Until it doesn’t.
Seems Green is a dumbass of sorts, and falls into the wild and wooly DJ/Karaoke scene that is ravaging the youth of Japan. And he never shows up for work, because he is too busy dressing like a geisha?
Brown: Seth Green was probably outdone in karaoke by the Velour Fog, Zapp Brannigan.
The Japanese are still willing to do business with Dan and Charlie ONLY on the condition that they are the ones to move to Tokyo. Charlie’s gung-ho about leaving his ultimately sad life behind but Dan has become attached to his bastard kids. After picking up Vicki from jail (where I remind you, she LIED TO HER KIDS about being there instead of respecting them enough to know what was going on), Dan breaks the news to his heartbroken family. The kids were becoming attached and Vicki was ready to give their relationship an honest try.
I truthfully felt bad for the guy. This movie was capable of making me feel emotions. Later, the movie will be an asshole when it comes to playing with my emotions.
Froemming: After traumatizing his family with abandonment, Dan and Charlie head to Japan to seal the deal. Only Dan has the most expensive second-guess I can think of in this situation, what all dropping this money on plane tickets and housing for the long haul in a foreign country. He decides he’d rather have a family, and he and Charlie have the old friend breakup on the flight back.
Charlie comes home and finds his dog, who is really his family, has passed away and I then remembered why I hate Disney movies: They kill beloved animals for cheap tears all the time.
Brown: Yep, nothing like some good ol’ Disney manipulation. (REDACTED) you, Mickey Mouse.
Plus, I don’t think this’ll be the only dead animal in this movie.
After Dan and Charlie reconcile at the funeral for Lucky (the dog), they decide that Dan needs to win back Vicki and the kids. To do that, they are going to crash Emily’s birthday party in America’s socialist haven: Vermont.
The zoo is closed to the public and Dan and co. can’t get in. So, they decide to pull a B&E by sneaking into the zoo into a mystery enclosure. It turns out it is a gorilla enclosure.
Robin Williams, John Travolta and Seth Green are responsible for the death of Harambe.
Froemming: Not only do they kill Harambe, they also rip off the ending of “Jingle All The Way,” as Charlie steals a superhero costume and jetpack, and flies to his child in a touching ending.
This is literally the ending to the Schwarzenegger holiday vehicle, only Sinbad doesn’t get arrested here.
Brown: So Dan and Charlie, well-off white men get off scot-free. And Sinbad in “Jingle All the Way,” a working-class black man, was arrested for virtually the same crimes.
The damn system is broken, people!
Also, the gorilla is cuddling Seth Green. That was probably moments after a panicked zookeeper had to put a rifle bullet between the gorilla’s soulful eyes.
Anyways, fast-forward a year and Dan and his family have reconciled and are hopping on a yacht with Charlie and Aunt Becky. I figure it’ll be a sales pitch to explain to Dan and Vicki how they know someone who can get the twins into an Ivy League school by using the lower enrollment standards and Title IX loopholes for athletics.
Froemming: I was getting more of a Robert Wagner-Natalie Wood-Christopher Walken vibe from this boat moment.
Jesus, being cooped up like this is bringing me to dark places.
Brown:I’d be so happy if everyone in this movie was sent to white-collar prison. I’m not quite at death by drowning levels of cynicism like Froemming here.
Well, Froemming is using a computer to force us into recommendations.
So let’s do that.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Hard pass on this.
Brown: Pfff, no. Robin Williams is good in this. Everything else is saccharin.