Friday, March 2, 2001

Old smeller

Movie: See Spot Run

Posted on Fri, Mar 2, 2001 at 4:00 AM

*
Our Rating: 1.00

To explain the extreme, lingering stench of "See Spot Run," it might be helpful to think of the movie itself as a dog. A real dog. "Spot," to put it kindly, is the sort of old pooch that doesn't know a single new trick. Try as it may -- and neither its director (rookie John Whitesell) nor its star (David Arquette) seem to work up much a sweat in the process -- this smelly mutt is able to do only one thing well: Play dead. It's a lifeless corpse of a canine.

"See Spot Run" was conceived as a project for Martin Lawrence, a comic actor gifted with the ability to do wonders with the right material. But Arquette, of all people, wound up replacing Lawrence in the role of Gordon Smith, a hapless postman whose chief ambition in life is to outwit the unfriendly dogs on the Bleeker Street leg of his suburban mail route.

It gets bleaker. Gordon's weapons in this long-running struggle include a Supersoaker water gun and a slingshot loaded with dog food. "Don't go postal on me," advises his co-worker, Benny (Anthony Anderson, of Me, Myself and Irene), an African-American sidekick character whose sole purpose seems to be flavoring this bland fluff with ethnicity. He does so by dropping references to rappers and encouraging his pal in bouts of slang and street dancing. It's an offensive proposition, and it doesn't work, either: The pair's chemistry is zilch.

Several pointless plot meanderings later, poor, idiotic Gordon is burdened with two big problems. The upwardly mobile, leggy blonde (Leslie Bibb) who lives next door goes off on a weekend business trip, sticking him with the job of baby-sitting her son, James. (Can you say "Big Daddy?") And to match the cute little boy (Angus T. Jones), there's Agent 11, an F.B.I. superdog who lands in Gordon's mail truck after escaping from a witness-protection program. Hot on the animal's trail is Murdoch (Michael Clarke Duncan), a hulking F.B.I. agent who pines for his lost canine partner.

Spot (as he comes to be known by Gordon and the kid) is also the target of an assassination scheme masterminded by a Mafia kingpin (Paul Sorvino) whose crime family has lost more than $22 million thanks to the drug-sniffing agent. The bumbling hit men are played by mob-guy regulars Joe Viterelli (Analyze This) and Steve Schirripa (TV's "The Sopranos").

Yes, it's time for the exciting art of conflict resolution, as mapped out by a four-man screenwriting team and sloppily orchestrated by a director with extensive TV credits. Who knows what thrilling twists lie ahead?

We'll tell you: Not much of anything. See Gordon slip and slide in dog poop. See him crash his mail van into a fire hydrant and get tangled in a giant wad of helium-inflated packaging plastic. See the would-be assassins repeatedly fumble their assignment. See Arquette do an awful variation of the laid-back, surfer-cool character perfected by Owen Wilson in films like "Shanghai Noon." See mom call home with news of her latest inevitable travel delay. See the kid cry big alligator tears. See us run. Woof.

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