David Arquette should have heeded the Hollywood warning attributed to W.C. Fields about never working with animals and children, then maybe he could have avoided the nasty fate of See Spot Run. The catchy title is one of the few charms of this irredeemable pile of steaming dog crap, a movie so rife with warmed-over slapstick and hoary clichés that its utter uselessness becomes almost fascinating.
Arquette, not the brightest bulb in the chandelier to begin with, plays dim-witted mail carrier Gordon Smith, who despises dogs and responsibility, in that order. So, of course, Gordon not only ends up taking care of a meek, pudgy 6-year-old (Angus T. Jones) while his rail-thin, overprotective mother (Leslie Bibb) takes an overnight business trip akin to Gilligan’s three-hour tour, but acquires a whip-smart pup as well. Unbeknownst to them, this is no ordinary dog, but an FBI agent in hiding from a vengeful mob boss (a slumming Paul Sorvino) who’s tired of the mutt busting his balls — literally. Also tracking the bureau’s prized hound is his trainer and partner (Michael Clark Duncan), whose spit-and-polish exterior barely contains his obsessive possessiveness.
The only reason a film this gimmicky could possibly require four screenwriters is the sheer volume of gags: It’s basically one substandard situation-comedy setup after another, with a few lame double entendres tossed in to please the unfortunate adults who’ve taken their kids to this misbegotten dog tale instead of renting My Dog Skip or 102 Dalmatians.
Director John Whitesell (Calendar Girl) actually weaves this hodgepodge together enough for grade-schoolers to mistake it for a real movie. But given the sheer volume of humiliation Whitesell and company heap upon the film’s human performers, it’s a small miracle when they can maintain even a modicum of dignity. Particularly since their shrill exaltations and exaggerated pratfalls make them look like buffoons compared to the calm confidence of a bull mastiff named Bob. Maybe the makers of See Spot Run shouldn’t be put to sleep, but a choke collar is definitely in order.
E-mail Serena Donadoni at email@example.com.