March 8, 2001

See Spot Stumble

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See Spot Run, the latest from director John Whitesell, is a didactic piece of filmmaking. It conveys a message that children will love and parents will loathe — that if there’s something you really want, all you have to do is pout and you will get it, even if that something is government property.

The intrepid FBI canine, Agent 11, is marked for assassination by mob boss Sonny Talia (Paul Sorvino) following a bust of the criminal’s operations. Much to the chagrin of his trainer (Michael Duncan Clarke), Agent 11 is placed in the federal witness protection program. But, thanks to the interference of an evil insider, Agent 11 is sent, not to Alaska to the FBI dog-sled training station (the American taxpayers’ money at work), but instead to Seattle to be intercepted by two of Talia’s goons. Agent 11’s innate brilliance allows him to understand his dangerous predicament, and he escapes from the henchmen’s clutches by hiding in a mail truck.

Enter Gordon Smith (David Arquette), driver of said mail truck. As an employee of the U.S. Mail Service, he is stereotypically averse to all members of the canine family. Gordon isn’t thrilled by Agent 11’s presence, but reluctantly brings him home at the insistence of young James (Angus T. Jones), his temporary charge and the son of the woman with whom he’s in love (Leslie Bibb). The rest of the movie depicts the growing relationship Gordon and James share with Agent 11, as well as their outwitting of the dog’s would-be assassins and their coping with the possibility of losing him (of course, this is a Hollywood production, so the issue of governmental ownership predictably yields to the cuteness of the child involved).

There are plenty of laughs in See Spot Run. However, they will only really appeal to the most immature and under-developed senses of humor. Some jokes center around the character of Talia and his unusual predicament — possessing a ball-bearing replacement for one of his masculine appendages following a run-in with Agent 11. There is also an anticipated, banal scene involving Gordon and dog feces which goes on for far too long. Suffice it to say, Gordon’s experience with the stuff is enough to warrant his questioning by the local police.

Performances were lackluster at best. With See Spot Run, Arquette continues in his portrayals of big, disheveled, eccentric kids, although here his frenetic weirdness is slightly more calm and subdued than it is in his AT&T commercials. The best performance is probably by the dog portraying Agent 11, who can convey such myriad emotion through the slightest contortions of his head. This supports the claim of the tagline: indeed, the smartest one isn’t wearing any pants.

In conclusion, do yourself a favor: don’t See Spot Run.

Archived article by Adam Cooper