A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Agent Toby Barks, a live-action comedy, tells the story of dog with a double life. At home with his family, Toby (voiced by Jon Lovitz) is the best pet ever. But at night, when his humans are asleep, Toby's a talking canine and an important member of a team of high-ranking US government agents. The movie is a slapstick comedy with larger-than-life villains and suspense. An infinite number of bad guys -- hulking, tattooed, snarling, and totally incompetent -- chase, capture, and intimidate the heroes. Cartoon violence includes fistfights, falls, knock-downs. Characters are frozen, gassed, thrown, and zapped. A heroic woman scientist is held hostage and threatened with torture by a cackling villain. A very brief dog attack is suggested rather than shown. Okay for kids who are comfortable with slapstick pratfalls.
What's the story?
Bret (Jonah Coppolelli) and Kate (Charlotte Ciano) have no idea that their beloved dog Toby (voiced by Jon Lovitz) is really a government agent in AGENT TOBY BARKS... and he talks! It's only a matter of time, however, before they find out. Their Auntie B (Casey Seymour Kim) comes to stay with them for a weekend while Ted (Dean Cain), the kids' dad, goes on a fishing-business trip. Auntie B is an agent, too, a teammate of Toby's. In fact, she's also the brilliant inventor who is responsible for the "B-Link" that enables Toby's magic. It's during that weekend that the treacherous Agent Lane (Fred Sullivan) makes his move. Lane wants Auntie B's ultra-valuable B-Link. Imagine how much money they could make with talking pets! But Auntie B only wants to use her invention for good. She's not about to sell out. Agent Lane won't give up. No matter how many hoodlums and criminals he brings on to kidnap both Auntie B and Toby, Bret and Kate simply won't let that happen.
Is it any good?
All the routine elements are in place: talking dog, likable kids, single dad, slapstick action, and idiotic buffoon villains who will stop at nothing to get rich; it just doesn't add up to much. Plus, Agent Toby Barks' boring, silly subplot about a fishing trip to win favor with the dad's boss stops the momentum in its would-be farcical tracks. However, there's a glimmer of something special in the character and performance of Casey Seymour Kim's "Auntie B." While all of the villains around her are hamming it up the way only amateurs with no direction can, Kim plays it straight -- with a wink -- and she's delightful to watch, much funnier than the clowns. If only the other actors and the director would've taken their cues from her.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the cartoon action in Agent Toby Barks. Do you think the fact that the violence is comic makes a difference for kids? How about little kids? How does your family decide when the kids are ready to see slapstick action? Why is it important to be aware of the impact of media violence on kids?
What is it about pets who speak that kids love? Is it their humanness? The silliness? What are your favorite talking animal movies? If your pet could talk to you, what do you think it would it say?
Find out more about slapstick humor. What does the term mean? What specialized techniques do the performers call upon to deliver the fun?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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