- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

There’s a moment in “Old Dogs” when sports-marketing agents Charlie (John Travolta) and Dan (Robin Williams) are regaling a suite full of Japanese businessmen with a humorous anecdote. As the suits from the Far East sit there silently, stony-faced and impassively absorbing the story, the audience feels some sympathy: We know exactly how they feel.

“Old Dogs” labors in the oddest ways to set up entirely predictable jokes. There are occasional chuckles during this clunker, but button-pushing and obvious punch lines do not a winning comedy make.

Charlie and Dan have been partners in business for 30 years, operating a sports-marketing firm that has made them wealthy and given them access to giants of the sporting landscape like Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Charlie’s a ladies’ man, while Dan’s a little bit of a square; that aforementioned vignette with the Japanese was Charlie’s retelling of Dan’s one moment of irresponsible impulsivity. After finalizing his divorce, Dan heads down to South Beach, where he ends up getting a tattoo and a new marriage.

Guess which lasts longer.

That one-night wedding might have been fleeting, but Dan’s feelings for his bride, Vicki (Kelly Preston), weren’t. Luckily for Dan, the two are about to be reunited: The one-night stand seven years ago led, unbeknownst to Dan, to twins - twins he’ll suddenly have to care for while Vicki spends a couple of weeks in the hoosegow.

You can imagine all the wacky hijinks as Dan and childless Uncle Charlie learn how to cope with the challenges of parenthood. Camping, bike-riding, childproofing Charlie’s bachelor pad: It’s all here.

It’s also all incredibly dull and generic. It’s the sort of paint-by-the-numbers comedy you would expect from the director of “Wild Hogs,” another immensely bland comedy starring Mr. Travolta.

Though affairs are enlivened occasionally by bit performances from fun actors like Justin Long and Matt Dillon, the driving narrative - Dan’s quest for adulthood and a successful relationship with his children - simply isn’t interesting or funny enough to sustain the audience’s attention.

Mr. Williams has already done the “father-trying-to-reconnect-with-kids” routine once this year in the far superior “World’s Greatest Dad,” a darkly comic look at one man’s strained relationship with his son and the oddly insincere way people react to the boy’s death. It’s a shame that picture was condemned to a quiet death at the box office while “Old Dogs” gets splashed on 3,300 screens.

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TITLE: “Old Dogs”

RATING: PG (mild rude humor)

CREDITS: Directed by Walt Becker, written by David Diamond and David Weissman

RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes

WEB SITE: https://disney.go.com/disney pictures/olddogs/

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