The Shaggy Dog Returns... with a New Bone to Pick

Mining their vault, Walt Disney Pictures has resurrected one of their golden oldies from the 1950s, The Shaggy Dog, which starred Fred MacMurray as an allergic, dog-fearing mailman and his son, played by Tommy Kirk, who magically morphs into a sheepdog after being cursed with an ancient amulet. The film was a big hit and ushered in a whole era of live-action family features from Disney, including Flubber, Old Yeller, Pollyanna and many more.

The genesis of this new remake was prompted by the film's star Tim Allen (Home Improvement, The Santa Clause and Toy Story), who had loved the original film as a child.

"I've always thought of it as one of the most memorable and fun movies from that time," Allen reveals in Disney's press notes. "But looking back at it, you realize the memory of it had held up far better than the reality of the movie itself. It had a big impact on a lot of kids back then, but the technology used in the late '50s is now hilariously outdated. So I loved the idea of updating a true classic, of taking something from a long time ago and bringing it to life in a fun and exciting way again. The challenge of really reinventing this story had a very strong appeal to me."

This time around, the story is focused on the father, played by Allen, who is disconnected from his family because of his career ambitions, but is forced at last to see his family through the affectionate eyes of the family dog.

"What was important to me," Allen says, "was throwing in a bit of heart and soul. As the story lets Dave (Allen's character) go where only dogs can go and hear what only dogs can hear, Dave actually starts to realize that he can be a better human. So, it's hilariously funny, but it's also a great family story."

"I especially love the scenes where Dave is trying to go through his normal day - as a lawyer and a father - but he simply can't ignore the smells, sights, sounds and instinctive drives of his new animal persona," Allen explains. "It's almost like It's a Wonderful Life, in that Dave gets to see what his family is like when he's not around - and through that he learns to pay attention to the people he loves in a new way."

The impressive cast includes Jane Curtin, Danny Glover, Kristen Davis and Robert Downey Jr. The film is designed to work for everyone in the family. It opens March 16 and is rated PG.

- Philip Murphy

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