A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Dog and Pony Show is a live-action, low-budget, talking-animal tale. The lead human character is a young boy who has recently lost his mom and moved to a down-and-out farm with his dad. When DeDe, the canine "star" of a traveling circus, is accidentally separated from her troupe, she ends up on the farm, now matriarch to a ragtag group of farm animals who aren't pulling their weight. Complicating the story are two buffoonish dog-nappers sent to capture DeDe for a rival show. It's a slapstick free-for-all with the villains falling, crashing, and bumping their way to catastrophe. Viewers can expect frequent fart jokes and poop humor. Kids will laugh at some of the sight gags and cow flatulence, but the amateurish movie has a ridiculous plot, defies logic, and is entirely predictable.
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What's the story?
DeDe, a pretty, talented dog, is a traveling circus's big attraction in A DOG AND PONY SHOW. She's also a bit of a snob. Though humans can't hear DeDe speak, the other animals do. Trick, her performing pony partner, takes the brunt of her spoiled behavior. When two bumbling villains, trying in vain to steal DeDe for a rival circus, manage to separate the little dog from her troupe, DeDe's in for an adventure. Lucky for her, she's found and taken home by Billy, a young boy who's struggling to fit into a farm community with his single dad. Billy's mom has passed away, and Aaron, his dad, is also having a hard time with an outstanding mortgage and a barn full of animals who aren't up to the task of farming. As the villains continue to fail in their constant attempts to capture the little dog, DeDe must adapt to life on a farm. She gets a little taste of what it's like to NOT be a star. And she soon determines that she can use her talents to help Billy and his dad. She'll get those talkative barnyard critters to work and save the farm. All she needs is a little help from Billy, his dad, and a nice neighbor lady with a young daughter, who just happens to be a widow herself.
Is it any good?
Even using a formula that usually works -- talking animals, potty humor, bumbling bad guys, and a single-parent romance -- this amateurish effort falls well short of acceptable. A Dog and Pony Show tries to sell close-ups of hooves and paws (articulated by human hands) doing the "tricks." Stealing a shot from a later scene, an early visual shows the two leading adult characters seated side by side at a circus well before the story has them meet.
Of course, kids will laugh at all the farting and poop jokes, but then why not just film animals doing just that? Why bother with a story? Particularly in a movie with so many overblown performances and nonsensical facts -- a few hens lay hundreds of eggs in a day; a man will save his farm if only he can get his horse to plow for two weeks. The whole enterprise shows a lack of respect for young audiences, as well as a lack of professionalism on the part of the filmmaking team. As for the legitimate actors who appear here (Mira Sorvino, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Muldoon), one can only hope they were doing a favor for someone; that's all that might explain their participation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about some of the things that kids find funny in movies (and in life). Could it be that embarrassment because of our own bodily functions makes us laugh at farting and poop jokes? Why is falling down funny only when we're pretty certain that no one will be hurt? How did the filmmakers in A Dog and Pony Show set up the two silly bad guys so that audiences knew it was OK to laugh at their "accidents"?
Many movies for kids involve big changes in a young hero's life. In A Dog and Pony Show, what two major life changes was Billy dealing with? How do these issues provide both drama and character building?
What does the term "predictable" mean when describing a story? What events in this movie surprised you? When did you know how the story would end? Is it OK for a movie to be predictable if getting to the obvious ending is fun?
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