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Teacher's Pet
2004 - PG - 73 Mins.
Director: Timothy Bjorklund
Producer: Stephen Swofford
Written By: Bill Steinkeller, Charlie Steinkeller
Starring: voices of Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Shaun Flemming, Debra Jo Rupp, Jerry Stiller, David Ogden Stiers, Rob Paulsen, Paul Reubens, Megan Mullally, Estelle Harris, Jay Thomas, Wallace Shawn
Review by: Carl Langley
   

I want to be a boy because I don't even look like a real dog!
Honestly, Disney’s new animated feature looked like one of those Pokemon and Powerpuff Girl films that even the parents eschew. One of those movies the adults wait until it reaches its plastic letterbox and dish out twenty dollars for their kids/grandchildren at Christmas time. And unless the kids are avid fans, the movie is left ignored in its wrapper, collecting as much dust as those Denise Austin or Tae Bo tapes do.

Instead I discovered Teacher’s Pet to exceed my expectations. The film deftly inserts the inanity and quirkiness that most young adolescents enjoy; it also was beneficial that the film lasted a measly 68 minutes. In order for this movie to keep its viewer in their seats, it would have to be effervescently quick-witted or the animation would have to be amazing enough to suffice. The advertisements predicate that the hand-drawn Teacher’s Pet is no Finding Nemo.

Based on the short-lived television series that airs on the Disney Channel, the story centers around a dog who desires to be a real boy – not to be confused with that wooden puppet who wished to go through puberty, cooties, and all that jazz. This dog (voiced by Nathan Lane – who supplies the voice for the television series as well), named Spot, sports a blue coat of fur reminiscent of that wacky cat named Tom. Every morning he disguises himself as Scott Leadready II and attends the same fourth grade class his master does, where he has perfect attendance and has consumed all of the academic awards. But now it is summer and Spot is stuck at home with his fellow housemates, Pretty Boy (voiced by Jerry Stiller) and the obese feline, Jolly (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) while the little boy and his mother leave for vacation in pursuit of some teacher award ceremony.

Of course, we wouldn’t have a plot if the mutt stayed home, now would we? He secretly hitches a ride with his owner and travels with them to Florida, where the crazed Dr. Krank (voiced by Kelsey Grammar) resides. After viewing Krank on television, Spot believes the evil doctor can metamorphose him into human form forever. The plot is simple enough not to require an attention span, although it does border the absurd towards the end. This is about the time Spot, who is now an elderly man (he forgot about the dog year effect), has attracted the liking of his master’s mother. Just thinking about their future is unsettling.

The animation is nothing to boast about, but it has its own distinctive quality and that makes it more appreciative. The characters look like they came right out of the mouth of a balloon animal constructer. First time director, Timothy Bjorklund, who also chaperoned the television series, blends the odd storyline with eleven lively tunes that you could find yourself humming while exiting the theater. Catchy songs such as “Small But Mighty” and the theme song “I Wanna Be a Boy” are the highlights of the film.

Sporting an all-too-familiar cast, Teacher’s Pet is inventive and whimsical. Occasionally idiotic which fortunately never follows through, the animated short will entertain its targeted audience of youngsters and possibly some adults still living in Disney mode. It is baffling how a parent will have to describe why the cartoon mommy is falling in love with the cartoon doggie. Imagine if the kid suddenly asks how the babies would turn out.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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