Teacher's Pet

Based on the offbeat Disney cartoon series about a dog who longs to be human, this barely feature-length musical starts off with a clever shout-out to Disney's PINOCCHIO (1940) and promisingly catchy musical number. Unfortunately, it then rolls over and plays dead for the rest of its brief — 67 minutes — running time. Supersmart canine Spot (voiced...read more

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Reviewed by Angel Cohn
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Based on the offbeat Disney cartoon series about a dog who longs to be human, this barely feature-length musical starts off with a clever shout-out to Disney's PINOCCHIO (1940) and promisingly catchy musical number. Unfortunately, it then rolls over and plays dead for the rest of its brief — 67 minutes — running time. Supersmart canine Spot (voiced by Nathan Lane) so longs to be a real boy that he dons human clothing and assumes the name Scott Leadready II so he can attend school with his 8-year-old human companion, Leonard Helperman (Shaun Fleming). Scott's fourth-grade class work is exemplary and his teacher, Mrs. Helperman (Debra Jo Rupp) — Leonard's mom — is utterly oblivious to the fact that her star pupil is not human. Though the animated series focuses on classroom antics and Spot's efforts to maintain his Scott persona, the movie takes place during summer vacation and ships its characters to sunny Florida, where Mrs. Helperman is competing in a teacher-of-the-year contest. Spot copes badly with being left behind: Two weeks will seem seven times as long to him as it will to Leonard. But while watching TV with his near-blind pet-sitter (Estelle Harris), Spot catches a glimpse of Jerry Springer-like talk show host Barry Anger (Jay Thomas) mocking Florida-based Dr. Ivan Krank (Kelsey Grammer), who claims he can transform "dumb animals into dumb human beings." Spot sees an opportunity to have his fondest wish fulfilled and, as Scott, hitches a ride to the Sunshine State. Naturally, he discovers a bit too late that Dr. Krank is a bona fide mad scientist, and his previous experiments have gone very much awry. The modified mutt is human all right, but his age in dog years produces a bearded older man with a bad back. Little Leonard tries to be supportive, but can't help but fantasize about having a normal pet to play Frisbee with. Few of the original songs are memorable, and only the opener "I Wanna Be A Boy" and the educational "A Whole Bunch of World" take advantage of Tony Award-winner Nathan Lane's Broadway-trained singing voice. Ultimately, the film's infrequent highlights come courtesy of two supporting characters, mouthy canary Pretty Boy (Jerry Stiller) and agoraphobic cat Mr. Jolly (David Ogden Stiers). Their combined efforts, sadly, can't hide the fact that the movie they're stuck in should have been pared down into an episode of the series.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Based on the offbeat Disney cartoon series about a dog who longs to be human, this barely feature-length musical starts off with a clever shout-out to Disney's PINOCCHIO (1940) and promisingly catchy musical number. Unfortunately, it then rolls over and pl… (more)

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