Hall of Fame Speech #1: Old Dogs

Brief note before we start: last July we got together and worked out a first class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly six years since we started BMT and the films we had seen more than five years ago, in some cases, deserved a rewatch and reassessment. Over the next four weeks leading up to the fourth (sixth?) Smaddies Baddies we’ll bring you previews and Hall of Fame Speeches for the five films chosen. This is the first, for the raucous buddy comedy Old Dogs starring Robin Williams and John Travolta. The intention is to reminisce a bit about what we remember about the film, what we think of it now, and why it deserved a special place in BMT history. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for Old Dogs

Perhaps it should not be that shocking that the first film we watched for BMT made it into the Hall of Fame. After all, we’ve now watched nearly 350 films over the past six years. Something special must have clicked in those early days to tell us: This is worth it, this is the correct path for your life. BMT owes a lot to the podcast How Did This Get Made? for this reason, it was their first film as well. For the first several weeks of BMT’s existence we exclusively watched films from HDTGM, and only ventured away from their filmography because they only did a film every other week, and their bad movies tasted differed from ours. And in a way that is why I remember Old Dogs so fondly. It was the start of it all and also lead us down a path to differentiating our tastes from others in the “bad movie space”.

Considering I had seen this movie once nearly six years ago, it was mindblowing (and a testament to the film) how much of it I still remembered prior to the reviewing. A quick rundown:

  • Travolta and Williams are sports publicity managers and have a big meeting to represent Japanese baseball players.
  • Seth Green is their young partner who is sent to Japan to close the deal but instead ends up becoming a karaoke master.
  • They open with how Williams got a divorce ten years prior and then went to spring break with Travolta as some buddy therapy. While there Williams got a dumb tattoo (amazingly Jamie remembered the tattoo said Freemont instead of Freeman!) across his entire chest.
  • They close at the zoo where they use a jet pack or something to fly around. Seth Green gets captured by a gorilla, an extremely minor, and yet highly promoted portion of the film. And I have a vague sense of the zoo being in Vermont.

I remembered a ton more, but those were the highlights, and everything is as ridiculous as I remembered. Indeed, Old Dogs is a true rarity. It hits six different bad movie checkboxes:  (1) Horrible and intrusive music. (2) Cut to shit. Flashbacks and side flashes galore where they clearly had a bunch of unused stuff lying around and didn’t know where to put it. (3) Montages all over the place. (4) Way too emotional and heart stringy. (5) It is a kids film with the perfect “adult storyline” that just doesn’t make sense. Why would kids want to hear about sports publicists trying to get Japanese baseball players on board? (6) It is a twin film, which obviously the bad movie twins love. My favorite part: Williams’ fake tan early in the film. Why? Because they clearly had shot a much more mundane and normal introduction to the kids, but felt the need to really get into the comedy early on. Before inexplicably leaving for a carnival the love interest reveals an “old family secret” to get it all off before leaving and the tan is literally never mentioned ever again. It is unusual for a bad comedy to hit any check marks (they are usually just boring). This is next level worst-of-the-year type work, and I’m surprised it isn’t more well known in bad movie circles.

Old Dogs is the very definition of good-bad. It is a zero-chuckle-comedy that is consistently terrible and punched up to shit, deconstructing it into a set of vignettes with a plot cloud instead of a plot line. The ridiculousness is peppered uniformly throughout the film: The crazy tan, the camp scene, the drug scene, and the finale are basically all in totally different parts of the film allowing for a sustained level of amazement throughout. I still think this could be the best-bad comedy we’ve watched, and an example of why such bad movies are almost impossible to find because something like this should never have been released to theaters, but, against all odds, it was. And I’m thankful for it.

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