Old Dogs

Robin Williams and John Travolta in a beastly Disney comedy. By Peter Bradshaw

 

This is a Disney family comedy starring Robin Williams and John Travolta, and … I know what you're thinking. Stop. Stop now. Stop before the quality of all our lives is permanently cheapened. In the name of merciful Christ and all the saints and martyrs, stop writing now about a Disney family comedy starring Williams and Travolta as middle-aged hombre bachelors who run a sports marketing firm and have to look after two adorable little kids. Please, not a keystroke more on this abysmal subject. Stop now – the way you might stop talking about the recent violent murder of a much-loved clergyman, whose tearful widow has just walked into the room. But as Samuel Beckett might have put it: "You must go on. I can't go on. You must go on. I'll go on. Hold it – a Disney family comedy starring Williams and Travolta? I seriously don't think I can go on."

To continue. Robin Williams and John Travolta play a couple of absolutely great guys who have to look after some adorable little kids. Early on in the film, Robin Williams's character goes to a tanning salon and gets too much tan, right? And he comes out with his face completely brown! Then some uproarious ethnic comedy kicks off, including a South Asian-looking person talking to him in their own language, because Robin Williams looks like one of them! Of course! For long, long hours after the film, I wandered the streets of London's West End, numbed by this film and by this LOL moment in particular, pondering the question: was it as well to get the unfunny racial moment out of the way early on, thus cauterising your senses for the regular, common-or-garden unfunny stuff? Or was it like ripping off a Band-Aid all at once, only to have someone start jabbing with a fork at the exposed region?

Anyway, Robin Williams and John Travolta have to look after these two sweet children. They are in fact Robin Williams's children, from an ill-starred marriage for which he is still pining. Travolta's affections, on the other hand, are entirely engaged with his pet dog, a canine character brought into the plot to assure us of John's essential likability. Tom Hanks's wife, Rita Wilson, is also in the film, in a baffling small role, doing a wacky cross-eyed funny face for reasons that escaped me at the time and escape me now in retrospect. Williams and Travolta, and we the audience, are finally invited to consider the following question: which is better, a soulless life of work and striving for money, or a joyous embrace of family and kids in all their gorgeous life-affirming messiness? There is actually a third option, which I considered for a good long while after seeing this film: to walk armed into Nando's, and spray the room with bullets before turning the weapon on oneself. It's a dilemma.

abysmal: bezdenny; okropny, fatalny

baffling: zaskakujący; kłopotliwy

canine: psi

cauterise: przypalać, przyżegać; kauteryzować

common-or-garden: zwyczajny, pospolity

hombre: facet, koleś

jab: dźgać, kłuć

kick off: rozpoczynać się

martyr: męczennik

Nando's: sieć restauracji z daniami portugalskimi i afrykańskimi

numbed: zdrętwiały

pine: marnieć, więdnąć

ponder: rozważać, rozmyślać, dumać

rip off: rozpruwać, rozrywać

tan: opalenizna

tanning salon: solarium

uproarious: hałaśliwy; przezabawny

wacky: stuknięty, dziwaczny

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