Reviewed by: Caroline Mooney
Starring: Liam Aiken, Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, Brittany Murphy, Kevin Nealon | Directed by: John Hoffman | Produced by: Stephanie Allain | Written by: Zeke Richardson, John Hoffman | Distributor: MGM, a Jim Henson Pictures production
Overall, my family thoroughly enjoyed the tale of dogs from outer space. And isn’t it funny to imagine dogs talking? Special effects are well done and the dog dialogues are convincing; you’ll recognize the names of Matthew Broderick, Cheech Marin, and Carl Reiner as the characters’ voices. The positive elements of friendship, family devotion, and loyalty far outweigh the crude bathroom and body function humor. I believe the makers of “Good Boy” send a positive message to families today, obey and honor your parents, avoid bitterness, keep your word, accept responsibility for your actions, choose your friends wisely, and be a loyal friend. Like the dogs, it seems Hollywood isn’t too old to learn new tricks either.
A far-fetched story? You bet. Several thousand years ago, canines of all species boarded a spacecraft from planet Sirius and traveled to Earth to dominate and civilize its inhabitants. Word travels back to the leader of Sirius, the Greater Dane, that the canine mission has failed miserably. Rumors suggesting dogs are nothing more than pampered pets demand investigation. In response to such rumors, Sirius’s leader deploys special canine agent K3942, later known as Hubble, to study the situation and report back. Following a crash-landing on Earth, agent K3942 sets out to explore the new surroundings.
Nearby, 12-year-old Owen Baker, played by Liam Aiken, is the neighborhood entrepreneur and operator of a dog-walking business. Longing for a dog of his own, Owen strikes a deal with his parents. If he can work responsibly for three months, his parents agree to adopt a mutt from the local pound. Keeping his eye on “the prize,” Owen eagerly fulfills his part of the bargain, and together, after a long awaited three months, the family visits the pound. Guess who also winds up at the pound? None other than K3943,the future Hubble.
Though securely situated in a loving family, Owen struggles with loneliness and instability. The Baker family moves often, remodeling, and reselling each home for income, thus uprooting Owen and making him the new kid with every move. Having no male friends of his own, Owen is an easy mark for a couple of neighborhood bullies. However, his loneliness subsides when a girl named Connie befriends him and the two develop a close friendship. Nevertheless, Owen dreads the upcoming move, and his parents, preoccupied with remodeling and decorating, are oblivious to his melancholy mood.
Suspecting Hubble is intelligent, Owens suspicions are confirmed when he discovers the dog can talk. Hubble explains his important mission, to cross-examine and evaluate the status of canine domination. The process begins with Owen’s four-legged, furry clients. After a disappointing first meeting, Hubble informs the dogs of their failure to dominate and colonize Earth. Though eager and willing to fulfill their duty, the dogs enjoy their domestic lifestyle; they are quite complacent. Giving into begging, Hubble agrees to help the dogs take up their rightful place of leadership. He knows nothing of love and friendship existing between people and dogs;and instead, he views their devotion as weakness.
On the other hand, life is much better for Owen after Hubble’s arrival. The family is still moving, but Hubble, the other dogs, and Connie spend time together daily. One day, through a bizarre occurrence, Hubble learns the Greater Dane plans to visit Earth. Believing the leader will call all dogs back to Sirius for punishment, Hubble attempts to prepare his new canine trainees to meet their leader properly. Together, they devise a plan to trick the Greater Dane into thinking the canine mission is successful. The future of all Earth dogs rests on their ability to deceive the Greater Dane; she must believe dogs are in charge.
Is this a cute story? Absolutely. Is it predictable? Absolutely again. Overall, I recommend the movie “Good Boy” but also suggest you continue reading as I address both the positive and negative elements of the movie.
Owen lives with his parents, a hardworking couple. They love him and want to do what is best for Owen. Although the family is moving, and it isn’t exactly the best time to adopt a new pet, the Bakers keep their word, rewarding Owen’s diligent work with their faithfulness. Owen, though bullied around by the other boys and upset about the upcoming move, manages to avoid bitterness. He is respectful and obedient to his parents as well.
Connie, Owen’s female friend, demonstrates courage and compassion as she abandons her life-long neighborhood friends, the bullies, to defend Owen and the other dogs. Taking full responsibility for speaking to the Greater Dane on behalf of all dogs, and knowing his action, regardless of his motive, was forbidden, Owen sincerely apologizes to Hubble.
The idea of home and family is central to the film. Hubble tells Owen “home isn’t a place, it’s who you’re with” that matters.
The theme of friendship is another major theme. Hubble does not understand the relationship between humans and dogs, nor does he know how to express affection. Owen accepts Hubble as he is and instead focuses on developing their friendship, allowing Hubble to move along at his own pace. Owen is supportive of Hubble’s mission and willing to help in any way possible, even at the risk of his own safety. When Connie witnesses a supernatural act by Hubble, Owen tells her the truth instead of making up a story. Connie proves a faithful friend by keeping her word to stay silent about Hubble.
In a time when so many films villainize adults, “Good Boy” does not. Instead, the movie simply centers on children and dogs, portraying parents as loving and supportive.
Two issues stand out in my mind. First, Hubble teaches his canine students to meditate as a means of reclaiming their identity and dignity. Hubble speaks the phrase “dignity comes from within” during a meditation session in which the dogs actually roll over on their backs for some breathing exercises.
Next, and perhaps the most troubling, is the stereotypical effeminate homosexual couple, the owners of Wilson, a Boxer. Though not specifically mentioned, the couple clearly lives together. My 6th grade daughter did not notice this point, and frankly, I doubt many children would, but combined with the themes of family and home, adding the homosexual couple, though subtle, is Hollywood’s obvious attempt to normalize homosexuality, and will no doubt be viewed as a victory within the homosexual community.
For the most part, parents need not worry about the language. The phrase Oh-My-God is used once; however, it is difficult to recognize and not clearly accentuated. Owen makes a joke suggesting the bullies have no balls. The comment could be innocent, but it most likely refers to the boys’ lack of courage when threatened by the dogs instead of a literal ball. The PG rating is apparently for body humor. Shep, Connie’s dog, repeatedly passes gas, and loudly I must add. A pun using the word Uranus is slipped in as well as the words “poop,” and “butt.” The neighborhood bullies call Owen a “freak,” “looser,” and “jerk.” Crude and mean? Yes, but the good news remains, no cursing.
Violence is minimal. The neighborhood bullies threaten Owen and actually try to fight with him a couple of times. They call Owen names, promising to hurt him next time he is alone. Also, one of the bullies throws rocks at Hubble, intending to hurt him.
One last concern is the film’s use of humor when the dogs inhale fumes from an aerosol can. Though I do not see this as a positive spin on drug use, the dogs are clearly intoxicated. Makers of the film intended this scene to be funny. Parents might seize the opportunity to discuss ill effects of drugs, alcohol, or any mind-altering substance at this point.
Violence: Minor | Profanity: None | Sex/Nudity: None
Year of Release—2003