Good Boy! (2003) - News Poster



Good Boy!

Good Boy!

Friday, Oct. 10

Good Boy! would represent the worst nightmare of W.C. Fields -- a movie about kids and talking dogs. For everyone else, the film is a cheerful tall tale that may make a significant contribution to both pet adoptions in North America and MGM's bottom line. For Good Boy! -- a likable family film -- should have legs, albeit furry ones.

First-time director John Hoffman, who along with Zeke Richardson adapted Richardson's radio play Dogs From Outer Space, keeps the movie upbeat and lighthearted the entire way. This doesn't allow him to dig into the darker side to childhood -- loneliness and isolation caused by a family that moves constantly -- which the film hints at but never really explores. But it does allow ample time for the film's canine stars to strut their stuff.

The idea here is that a dog arrives from outer space -- a border terrier from the dog star Sirius, to be exact -- to make certain "Earth dogs" are dominating the planet as has been their responsibility since they arrived from Sirius thousands of years ago. What a shock it is when the pooch learns dogs have become human beings' pets!

Forced into an adoption of his own to escape the pound, Canid 3942 -- renamed Hubble by his 12-year-old "master," Owen Baker (Liam Aiken) -- decides to take Owen into his confidence: Owen is given the ability to hear Hubble (voiced by Matthew Broderick) and the other neighborhood dogs when they speak. Owen proves the perfect companion, being without a friend since his parents (Molly Shannon and Kevin Nealon) make a living by buying, renovating and selling homes, leaving Owen without one of his own.

Combining skillful CGI effects with well-trained animals, the production gets much comic mileage out of the dogs' banter, arguments and commentary on humankind. The neighborhood pack consists of a nervous and skittish Italian greyhound named Nelly (Brittany Murphy), a wise-cracking boxer called Wilson (Donald Faison), a jokester Bernese mountain dog dubbed Shep (Carl Reiner) and an immaculately coiffed standard poodle called Barbara Ann (Delta Burke). Hoffman, though, makes certain Owen and his new friend Connie (Brittany Moldowan) do not get upstaged by the dogs as the two-legged and four-legged actors share scenes well.

The script builds nicely to a slapstick climax, where the arrival of the Greater Dane (Vanessa Redgrave) from Sirius to inspect the troops coincides with the sale of the Baker family's latest house. At this juncture, the action disappoints as Hoffman pulls back from the rich possibilities for physical comedy. The doggie tricks seem rather ordinary, while the whole third act feels sentimental and contrived.

Mostly, Good Boy! exists for the middle section where youngsters and dogs speak the same language. These escapades, all taking place under the adults' radar, generate many sound laughs.

Tech credits involving the dogs are terrific. All others on this Vancouver-based production are solid, especially cinematographer James Glennon's use of tracking shots to keep up with the dogs as they race across the ground.



A Jim Henson Pictures production


Writer-director: John Hoffman

Screen story: Zeke Richardson, John Hoffman

Based on the radio play Dogs From Outer Space by: Zeke Richardon

Producers: Lisa Henson, Kristine Belson

Executive producer: Stephanie Allain

Director of photography: James Glennon

Production designer: Jerry Wanek

Music: Mark Mothersbaugh

Co-producer: Bill Bannerman

Costume designer: Antonia Bardon

Editor: Craig P. Herring


Mrs. Baker: Molly Shannon

Owen: Liam Aiken

Mr. Baker: Kevin Nealon

Connie: Brittany Moldowan

Hubble: Matthew Broderick

Barbara Ann: Delta Burke

Wilson: Donald Faison

Nelly: Brittany Murphy

Shep: Carl Reiner

Greater Dane: Vanessa Redgrave

Greater Dane's henchman: Cheech Marin

Running time -- 88 minutes

MPAA rating: PG

'Bill' slays way to $25 mil; 'Boy!' benefits on holiday

It was a record tally at the boxoffice in North America during the four-day Columbus Day holiday weekend as the total for the 132 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter registered $123.6 million. Although the increase was a slim 3% from the holiday session in 2002, which was the previous high for the frame, it was an increase nonetheless. The extra day at the boxoffice Monday, which is a legal holiday in the United States and Thanksgiving in Canada, made for a stronger Sunday and Monday compared with a regular three-day weekend. Nearly half of the nation's schools were out Monday, which gave a leg up to the family audience fare, in particular MGM's Good Boy! The PG-rated family film about dogs from outer space received a solid bump from Sunday to Monday. And Buena Vista's Finding Nemo was up 12% from the previous weekend despite losing theaters. But the top dog overall at the boxoffice this weekend was Miramax's Kill Bill-Vol. 1, which grossed $25.3 million during the four days to take the top spot. The ultraviolent martial arts actioner, starring Uma Thurman and directed and written by Quentin Tarantino, was cut from what was originally one picture. Kill Bill-Vol. 2 will be released in February.

Champa leashes 'Good Boy!' role for MGM, Henson

Champa leashes 'Good Boy!' role for MGM, Henson
Actress Jo Champa has joined the pack of Good Boy! with Matthew Broderick, Carl Reiner, Brittany Murphy, Molly Shannon, Kevin Nealon and Liam Aiken for MGM and Jim Henson Pictures. John Hoffman is directing the project from his own script based on original material by Zeke Richardson. Good Boy! revolves around the adventures of an alien dog who comes to Earth and becomes the pet and good friend of a young boy (Aiken). Henson's Lisa Henson and Kristine Belson are producing with executive producer Stephanie Allain. At the studio, Elizabeth Cantillon and Stephanie Palmer are overseeing. Champa gained notice in Italy for her starring turn in the Academy Award-nominated film La Familia, directed by Ettore Scola, and La Vie Del Signore Sono Finite, directed by Massimo Troisi. She is repped by WMA and the Bauer Co.'s Rob Marsala.

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