There once was a day when cartoons were considered lowbrow entertainment for kids, and films for the family soared with imagination and wit. In today's entertainment battlefield, the opposite seems to be the case. Modern cartoons are some of the wittiest shows on TV. And family films? Well, "See Spot Run" (IMDb listing) is a great example to how low standards have sunk.
David Arquette stars as Gordon, a slacker postal clerk who has the hots for his neighbor, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb from "The Skulls"), and a burgeoning friendship with her shy and melancholy son, James (Angus Jones). When an FBI-trained canine becomes the target of a deranged mob boss (Paul Sorvino, grasping to the last rung of the shame ladder), the dog is accidentally shipped by the government into the suburbs and into the arms of little James. When Stephanie is forced away by work, the dog, Gordon, and James are forced to fend for themselves when two Mafia hit men are dispatched to finish off the dog, and whatever witnesses remain.
Obviously, we can all blame John Hughes. Remember when he used to write great films? Ever since his "Home Alone" proved that mayhem and pain could be turned into box office gold, Hollywood has ruined almost every children's film since, trying desperately to find that "Home Alone" formula. Even Hughes himself has tried successfully to rip himself off ("101 Dalmations"). Though Hughes has no connection to "See Spot Run," his fingerprints are all over this motion picture, from a 10-minutes sequence of Gordon continually falling in a pile of dog excrement, to the climatic battle in a pet store where the mob hit men get battered and beaten in true Culkin fashion. "Spot" is very routine and terribly crude. In the 10 years since "Home Alone," nothing has changed in the structure of family films. "Spot" is another forgettable reminder that this genre is in great need of a makeover.
"See Spot Run" wouldn't be so awful if it didn't have one or two genuine moments of entertainment and kindness. The scenes between Arquette and young Angus Jones are often funny and terribly sweet. Jones has a fascinating face, looking like Droopy Dog's kid brother. His acting ability isn't much, but the camera needn't do anything more then give him a closeup and wait for the magic to happen. He's adorable. Jones even manages to calm down the perpetually frantic David Arquette no small achievement.
But hey, who wants sweetness? Soon enough, "See Spot Run" isn't concerned with moments that might actually involve the audience or their emotions. That kind of nonsense is kitten play and gets in the way of those old fashioned dog-biting-testicle gags we all love!
Filmfodder Grade: D