Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
This is surely one of the fundamental laws of fiction: When a man and a dog change bodies, it is funnier to see the man act like a dog than to see the dog act like a man. As Dr. Johnson observed so long ago, when a dog stands on its hind legs, "it is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all." A dog standing on its hind legs is considerably less convincing than a man on all fours, especially when he lifts his leg near a fire hydrant.
In "The Shaggy Dog," a remake of the 1959 version with Fred MacMurray, Tim Allen plays an assistant district attorney prosecuting a case involving the use of laboratory animals. He is bitten by a 300-year-old dog from Tibet, which has been stolen from a monastery. The dog is destined to be used in the DNA research of a scummy longevity researcher played by Robert Downey Jr., who plays, as he does so well, a man whose agenda seems not merely buried but decomposing. There is a special-effects shot of the dog's DNA racing into Allen's veins. The dog DNA looks like lots of little dogs. I suppose we should be relieved that the human DNA doesn't look like a lot of little Tim Allens, although the concept of dog DNA being taken for a walk by human DNA is intriguing.
Allen's rebellious daughter Carly (Zena Grey) is filled with animal rights fervor after her social studies teacher is accused of setting a fire at a lab where animals were being mistreated. Dave is the prosecutor, but finds his courtroom duties increasingly hard to perform as he transmutes into a dog. I think he is supposed to have become the clone of the dog from Tibet, although perhaps he has simply become a new but similar dog. He doesn't go through puppy stage, however, so perhaps he was simply occupied by the other dog, although then does that still leave the original dog behind? Are laws of the conservation of matter involved here? I have extraordinary difficulty in reasoning though the details of plots that are preposterous on principle.
Although he becomes a dog, Dave still retains his own mind, and tries to behave like dad would. When his daughter Carly gets too friendly with her boyfriend Trey (Shawn Pyfrom), he jumps on the bed between them. And on his wedding anniversary, as his wife waits forlornly at a table for two in a restaurant, he appears outside the window, wagging his tail, with a bouquet in his teeth. His family is extraordinarily obtuse, I must say, in not quickly realizing that the shaggy dog is their father. How many clues do you need?